Walking in the Light We Share Through Forgiveness
by Rukeia Draw-Hood
As God’s Word tells us, God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son as a sacrifice
to amend for our sins so that forgiveness could be offered and reconciliation achieved. As the story
continues, those who accept this reality are to extend this forgiveness and love to one another
and be reconciled (Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). So why is it
that the world recognizes believers more by their hypocrisy than by their love for one another?
Alexander Pope is famous for saying, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Journalist Elizabeth
Large reports that it is human nature to respond to an offense with anger, grudges, or vengeance.
In spite of religious instruction, many believers respond with all three. Lots of Christians have
lives controlled by anger and bitterness. Many are touchy and easily provoked. Others don’t know
how to let go of grudges. Like the second-grader who is full of rage and yells at his teacher, like the
abused woman who has rehearsed the acts of molestation and retaliation in her mind a million times
over the past twenty years, like the streetwise young man who refuses to let go of payback for the
business venture gone sour with his childhood friend, how is it that many of God’s children never
adequately learned how to cope with the disappointments and injuries experienced at the hands of
The church should dedicate more resources to facilitating forgiveness. It starts with the
theologians, the great minds, whose task it is to challenge the church to reflect on issues of great
importance. There are many systematic theology textbooks, and although they are supposed to
cover all the major authoritative teachings of the church, they rarely, if ever, address the topic
of love and forgiveness. This trend continues among distinguished Black theologians (with
the exception of J. Deotis Roberts and Dwight Hopkins). In contemporary Black theology,
freedom and justice overshadow forgiveness and reconciliation. There is, however, ample preaching
on forgiveness in local churches. In spite of this, many believers have not moved beyond knowing
about forgiveness and believing in its goodness. Christian education in the local church has not
typically given congregants the educational experiences they need to practice forgiveness in
their daily lives.
Forgiveness helps Christians fulfill God’s commandment to love one another (Matthew
22:39; John 13:34; 1 John 3:23). To love another brother or sister in Christ is to walk in the light
they share (1 John 2:10). Love is the bond that holds Christian communities together, and
forgiveness is an expression of that love. Mother Theresa said, “If we really want to love we must
learn how to forgive.” This agrees with Paul’s writing that love keeps no record of wrongs
(1 Corinthian 13:5). Healthy loving relationships are impossible without forgiveness because, as
Peter Ustinov says, “Love is an act of endless forgiveness.” Jesus tries to communicate this to
Peter when He encourages him to forgive one person a lavish number of times (Matthew 18:22).
Forgiveness is a moral response to injustice. It’s a choice to lay down the right to pay an
offender back, absorbing the evil and suffering the pain of an injury instead. Based on the
merciful character of God and the forgiveness He has already extended to the believer for far
greater offenses, such a choice is informed by a conviction that unwillingness to forgive another
Christian is hypocritical (Luke 6:36; Ephesians 4:32). The International Forgiveness Institute
says forgiveness also reaches out to the offender in moral love by seeking the rehabilitation and
betterment of the injurer. An unforgiving believer walks in darkness because every part of his or her
being is negatively affected—mind, body, and spirit. An unforgiving person drinks poison and expects
someone else to die from it. The point is that harboring hostility can be deadly for individuals and those
who come too close to them!
Recent studies have found that people who hold grudges have diminished health compared to
those in the general population. They have more visits to the doctor, more stress-related disorders
(anxiety, restlessness, sadness, and depression), lower immune system functioning, and higher
rates of cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, heart disease, and abnormal heart rate).
Jesus warns that God is like the lender who forgave an enormous debt (Matthew 18:35)
because He expects a believer’s character and treatment of others to reflect His own character
and treatment toward the believer. Forgiven people forgive others, and there are consequences
when they don’t. Believers are an integral part of a loving community, linked by the Spirit of God.
will inevitably, if not regularly, be offended in this imperfect community. Love can only prosper
where there is forgiveness. You can begin to walk in the light of love and facilitate forgiveness in your
life or congregation in a myriad of ways: consider keeping gratitude journals, providing training
in communication skills and conflict resolution, participating in role plays and simulations,
completing the weekly REMEMBER YOUR THOUGHTS, MAKE IT HAPPEN, and FOLLOW
THE SPIRIT sections in this book, seeing a professional (minister, therapist, social worker,
life coach) who can accompany you through the process, researching a forgiveness curriculum for
congregational use, hiring a consultant to design an intervention, or formulating a congregational
theology of forgiveness through honest dialogue and Bible study. Whatever method you use, please
address reconciliation, repentance, process, and abuse cycles.
Practicing forgiveness allows believers to be healthy and whole, thereby contributing to
the stability, unity, and maturity of the entire Christian community. Remember unforgiveness
has serious consequences. Begin using what resources you have to let go of grudges or help
others do so today!
Rukeia Draw-Hood, PhD, received an MA in
Christian education from Oral Roberts University
and a PhD in educational studies from Trinity
International University. She is an active member
of the The Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas.