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The power of forgiveness

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By Rev. Fr. John Damian Adizie, OCD

Our world is gradually becoming so aggressive. It is a world where people believe that the only way to demon-strate their power is through wickedness and vengeance.

A world where people are beginning to practice the doctrine of eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. Here in Nigeria, it has gotten to a stage where men of God can now attack themselves not just on the  pulpit but also in a law court. A world where religious leaders are beginning to take laws into their hands – all in the name of vengeance. It is in a world like this that I want to remind Christians, especially my fellow men of God, the essence of our faith.

Our Lord Jesus Christ told his followers, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who per-secute you. So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43). Forgive-ness is the only way we can prove to the world that we are sons and daughters of the Most High God. To sin is, in-deed, human but to for-give is divine.

While the world sees for-giveness as an act of weakness our Lord Jesus Christ proved to the world that it is indeed the most power-ful force. He did not overcome the world with insults (as most men of God are doing nowadays).

He did not use military force. The only weapon He used was the weapon of forgiveness. On the Cross of Calvary He did what men could not do. He was the first man in the history of humanity to forgive and even pray for his executioners. Instead of cursing his execution-ers, he prayed for them, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Certainly, this was not what his enemies were expecting to hear. They were highly disappointed!

No wonder Mahatma Gandhi declares, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attri-bute of the strong.”

God demonstrates his might through forgive-ness. He revealed his true identity to Moses in the following words: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness… forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). Our God is so powerful that noth-ing and nobody can easily provoke him. He is fully in control of His feelings. He is indeed, slow to anger!

The spirit of unforgiveness has rendered so many people stagnant. The truth, according to Steve Maraboli, is “Unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself and the situation, and unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”

The more you hold someone on the ground the more you remain on the ground. If you really want to move forward and if you want to free yourself from bondage, then you must be ready to forgive and let go.

Nothing is as poisonous as the spirit of unforgiveness. That is why Nelson Mandela declared: “Resentment (and Unforgiveness) is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” This is foolishness of the highest order. Whenever you keep malice, the person may not know that you are dying because of him or her. While he enjoys his sleep you may end up having sleepless nights because of him. Malice, resentment and unforgiveness has destroyed so many people’s lives. They are the worst form of poison in the world.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, defines forgiveness as the essence of Christianity. According to him, “To be a Christian means being forgiving, kind, humble, gentle, generous and merciful with one another.”

Forgiveness is peculiar to Christians. Without forgiveness there will be no Christianity and without Christianity there will be no forgiveness. True Christians are known by their humility and forgiveness. In fact, a Christian is condemned to forgive. That why Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven times.

That is, uncountable times!

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