So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from the heart. – Matthew 18:35
To forgive is hard work. And yet, as the title of Desmond Tutu’s book suggests, there is “No Future Without Forgiveness.” To be unable to forgive is to be stuck in the past.
There is much more that could be said about forgiveness than I am able to say here this morning, so I want to focus only on one thing. To borrow a phrase from theologian James Alison, forgiveness requires a “heart-close-to-cracking.” I suspect we know what Alison is talking about; we have all experienced a heart close-to-cracking. The heart-close-to-cracking is a difficult place to be; it has experienced such hurt and anger that it either wants to harden or to flee, to either put up stronger defenses (including offenses, against the other), or to flee and avoid the hurt altogether, perhaps by withdrawing, perhaps through addictions, perhaps through denial of how much we have been hurt. Though the heart-close-to-cracking is a difficult place, it is also a special place. For when are hearts are close-to-cracking, God is able to draw nearer to us than He has ever drawn before. As the Psalmist notes: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted; he will save those whose spirits are crushed” – (Psalm 134:18). If we are to have a future, it is important that we let God draw near to us because it is God after all, and not we ourselves, who actually forgives. We can forgive only because God has first forgiven us – wholly, completely and always – through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Any forgiveness we may have is an overflowing of God’s already-present forgiveness from what God has done for us in Christ.
If you recognize that your heart is close-to-cracking – that you have experienced hurt and pain and anger such as to crush your heart – resist the temptation to harden or flee. Know that this heart close-to-cracking is a special place. A place where God is able to enter in in new and deeper ways, where God is able work new life, where God’s forgiveness is able to flow through you and to bring you freedom from the one or those who seem to oppress you. And I suspect that your forgiveness may trigger a release, a heart close-to-cracking, in the other, the one whom you feel has wronged you, and bring them new life, too.