By Rev. Dr. Jack Sara:
Last week, I was asked by a couple of colleagues from MENATE (the Middle East & North Africa Theological Accreditation for Theological Education) to present to them a webinar on the issue of reconciliation and forgiveness. It was a forum and they would ask me several theological questions relevant to this issue. It was indeed an interesting dialogue, where I tried to reach out to many Christians around us here in Palestine and elsewhere in the world to teach and help understand the issue of reconciliation and forgiveness. Generally, forgiveness requires one party to give it while reconciliation needs two or more opposing parties to make it.
I can say it bluntly now, in one way or another, Palestinians, in general, were able to forgive and move forward in regard to past issues. Their problem is that the aggression continues to happen and their past pain continues to follow them into their present lives. For us as Christians, forgiveness is not an option, but it’s mandatory; the scripture is filled with words of encouragement on why forgiveness is important. Beginning from the Lord’s prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us, to be an example of our prayers always, to the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the apostles, we know that forgiveness has the power to free us to live a life of love, service and growth in the Christian faith. Scripture teaches us “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9).
The unique thing about forgiveness in Christianity is that the strength to forgive doesn’t come from our strength or wisdom, but rather from the power of God and His initial forgiveness of our lives for our transgressions. “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.” (Daniel 9:9). Also, Colossians 1:13-14 teaches us that: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins”. These are only a couple of numerous scriptures that are filled with promises about the strength that God gives us to forgive. You see, forgiveness works on many levels, between friends, family, community, church group, or beyond on a neighborhood, village, city, or country level. Sometimes, you can forgive without the person you have forgiven his/ her transgression confessed or changed, and sometimes when they do so. The most important thing is that the first impact of forgiveness falls on us as forgivers, where we grow in God’s knowledge, proper in our spiritual life and strengthened by God to endure temptations and trials.
I know this subject is not easy because to forgive, we almost need higher powers to do so, which is why I also believe God is willing to give such forgiving powers to whoever asks for that power. May the Lord teach us and strengthen us as a community here at the Bethlehem Bible College to be a community of forgiveness, and always allow us to offer the teachings of scriptures about the power of forgiveness to all of our students here in Palestine and beyond.