Contributed by Pastor Dan Baldwin
Grace Lutheran Church
For those who attend worship or spend time reading scripture, a common theme you will find is forgiveness. We read in scripture, particularly the New Testament, of our God who comes to us in Jesus Christ, dies on a cross, and rises again to show the extent of God’s love for the world. Part of the effect of this loving action is the forgiveness of our sin, the cause of our broken relationship with God. The result of this forgiveness is a restored relationship with God.
However, forgiveness is not just something that is between God and us. I think everyone can agree that we often do or say things to one another that hurt. We for sure can recognize that others have hurt us. Jesus made a point to highlight the importance of forgiving one another throughout his ministry. There is a common misconception made about this kind of forgiveness, though. We think that forgiving someone who hurt us is something we do for them when it is actually something we do for ourselves.
In my study of psychology when I was in college, I found a helpful definition of forgiveness: forgiveness is letting go of negative feelings you have toward someone and giving up your right to seek revenge. When we think about forgiveness in this way, there are many personal benefits to be found in forgiving others. In addition to affecting your day-to-day mood, carrying an abundance of negative feelings causes stress. It follows naturally that if we let go of these negative feelings we can reduce our stress level. Considering that psychology has found that high stress, especially when it is long term, can reduce the effectiveness of your immune system, not only can forgiving others help improve your mood, but it can also improve your physical health.
Little did we know that when God forgave us in Jesus Christ and commanded us to forgive one another as we are forgiven that God was not only giving us a means to repair our relationships with one another, but also to improve our emotional and physical well-being. Forgiveness is no easy task, but I think it is certainly worth the effort.