"And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
of them that make peace."
This past week in Sunday School we were having a discussion about Joseph in Egypt (one of my all time favorite stories) in the book of Genesis and an interesting thing happened to me. This question was raised: How does the worlds belief about forgiveness differ from the Lord's belief about forgiveness?
I raised my hand. I thought I knew what to say. Instead, I said something completely different. It was like I was just saying things that were there and I hadn't realized it. I'd like to share it with you and then, at the end, I've included the information as a table for study. :)
I had three points from each side that contrast each other come spilling out of my mouth. I didn't go in depth, I just stated, "The world says that someone has to ask forgiveness. The Lord tells us they do not need to in order for you to forgive. The world tells you that someone has to make things perfectly whole and right again. The Lords invites us to see that He already has. The world tells you if the offense is committed again, you don't have to forgive them a second time. The Lord tells us seventy times seven." I'd like to delve a bit deeper into these points.
1) The world says that someone has to ask forgiveness before you can forgive. The Lord does not agree. He says you can forgive even without an apology. Let's take a look at some examples of this in the scriptures. In Doctrine & Covenants 64:10, the Lord tell us, "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (emphasis added) There is not qualifier in that statement from the Lord. All literally means all, whether they have apologized or not. Another example of this can be found at the end of our Savior's life. As Jesus was hanging on the cross, suffering for each one of us and the sins that we so frequently commit, He spoke these words to His Father (who is our Father as well), "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do..." (Luke 23:24). If you read prior to this statement, you will find no apology, either sincere or snide, from those who harmed Him. The Savior expects us to live by His example. This means that we are held to a higher standard. We must forgive all men, as He did, no matter what they do and whether or not there is an apology.
2) The world says that the person has to make things right. It tells us that if things aren't made right, we will never be whole and will be unable to find peace. The Lord tells us He already has made things right and that we can find complete peace in a world that rarely feels a moment of it. Some scriptural back up for my point--in Doctrine & Covenants 50:41-42 reads, "Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost." A powerful promise. Christ teaches in Matthew 11:29-30, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." And in John 14:27 we learn this from the Savior, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." When we follow Christ's example of ready forgiveness, all is right. Our burdens are lifted. We find peace.
3) The world would tell us that if we forgive once, and the offense is committed against us again, it is unforgivable. The Lord has very different math. Peter asked this of the Lord in Matthew 18:21, "Then came Peter unto him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" I think we all know the response. Matthew 18:22, "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." I will put a short disclaimer in here and say that we are agents to act and not be acted upon (see HERE, especially under Component Number Three: Inviting Children to Act for more on that subject). Whenever we are in a situation where we are being continually hurt, we must shoulder some of the blame and work to not put ourselves in that situation. This may be radical thinking, but even those who are in serious abusive situations have the power to leave. Christ will bolster you. He will carry you. Take action. The only instance I feel this does not apply to is when a child or some other frail person who is unable to care for themselves and is completely dependent upon another for life is being abused.
I'm not here to say that I am the perfect example of forgiveness or the perfect example of righteous living. I am just here to share with you a little knowledge that I learned in Sunday School this past Sabbath. I personally have had experiences with each of these three items of concern. I also have come to know that the Savior's Atonement will make up for all that I lack and for all that is done to me in error.
I also believe what we are taught about judgement and forgiveness (see HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.) When we forgive freely and without malice, frankly as Nephi did, we are becoming more like our Savior and more fit for the Kingdom of God. I know that forgiveness is part of Christ like charity.
May we ever forgive those around us so that our lives may be filled with peace is my humble desire and wish. God bless you all!
You can find the chart I told you about HERE. Feel free to download it and use it for your personal use. If you find any other wonderful scriptures, I would LOVE to have you share them here in the comments!