“Forgiveness is a gift; it is about grace and freedom.” Admos Chimhowu, a member of our congregation and senior lecturer in International Development at Manchester University writes on Forgiveness – he continues…
Forgiveness is a gift, because not all can forgive. Being able to forgive is received from Jesus Christ, who on the cross, spoke the words “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” It is up to us whether we accept this forgiveness or not. When we don’t forgive, we remain in captivity; imprisoned with invisible bars. It entraps us.
In Nelson Mandela’s biography he spoke of why he embraced forgiveness; it was because he spent most of his life in a physical prison, deprived of his family and friends, unable to share in their lives. He did not want to spend the rest of his life imprisoned by anger, hate, bitterness and resentment. He wanted to live a life of freedom. It is notable that Nelson Mandela always wore brightly coloured ‘Freedom’ shirts.
Forgiveness is at the heart of what our Christian faith is about. Forgiveness brings freedom; freedom from anger, resentment and frustration. Forgiveness is about being Christ-like, it is an act of love: Christ’s love in action.
When Nelson Mandela met his jailer, Christo Brand, from Robben Island, after he became president of South Africa, it was an awkward meeting. The jailer represented the face of Apartheid to Mandela, yet he forgave, and they became lifelong friends. The jailer felt liberated from his conscience. He felt guilty about his excessive behaviour during of his time as a jailer. Knowing he was forgiven, Christo Brand spent his life preaching forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the essence of our Christian faith. It demonstrates the core value of love for God’s creation. Then why is it so hard? Forgiveness is a journey, started within ourselves. It is an act of free love; it is unconditional, not dependant on others being sorry, or even accepting our forgiveness. Jesus said “Father, forgive them”. He said this unconditionally, entirely because of his nature, rather than because of humanity’s repentance, or willingness to accept his forgiveness.
Thank you to Admos for this blog post, written originally as a contribution to the Manchester Diocesan #MoreThanSunday initiative.