One of the unique things about Christ’s teachings is His emphasis on forgiveness. During this holiday season, people need to practice forgiveness at home, at work, and in worship assemblies. Looking at every other religious system, you see a striking emphasis on revenge and retaliation. In the Koran, for example, Sura 2:194 says, “Anyone who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you.” Sura 42:42-43 says, “Those who avenge themselves when wronged incur no guilt,” and Sura 47:3-5, “retaliation is decreed for you in bloodshed.” Even in the Law of Moses, the code is “breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Leviticus 24:17-20). By contrast, Christ taught forgiveness.
The fact is that revenge serves no purpose and harbors massive pain. When you read the teachings of Christ, you see a whole different set of guidelines for relationships – love your enemy, go the second mile, and turn the other cheek. (See Matthew 5:38-48.) That is radically different from every other human religious system. Christ taught forgiveness so strongly that in His model prayer (Matthew 6:12-14), He says that God’s forgiveness is contingent on our forgiveness of others. In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter questions Jesus about how many times he has to forgive a brother who sins against him. Peter puts the limit at seven times, but Jesus says it is seventy times seven. He is not saying that 490 is the limit, but there should be no limit to how we forgive others.
Sadly, one of each year’s highest murder and suicide rates occurs around Christmas. In Matthew 26:28, Jesus gives His followers a symbol to remember the sacrifice of His death. The verse says, “Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying all of you drink from it. This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.” Communion, “the Lord’s Supper,” is a time for renewal and the realization that the blood shed on the cross washes away our sins. Peter tells us that baptism is when we accept the forgiveness of sins (See Acts 2:38 and 22:16). In 2 Corinthians 5:17-2, we read about God’s forgiveness and the fact that becoming a Christian makes all things new.
People have asked me to help resolve various family conflicts over the years. In some cases, a marriage was teetering on the edge of divorce. Others have involved kids and their parents. I saw conflicts in the school where I taught, and they reached a maximum near the Christmas holiday. In all those cases, the conflict was eased or resolved when someone simply expressed forgiveness and thankfulness for the other person.
Christians need to understand that revenge is the devil’s tool. Love, compassion, and empathy are God’s tools. Forgiveness can be difficult, but it is powerful for healing relationships. When we understand why a person has done what they have done, we can have more empathy for them. Knowing that all humans have infinite value can resolve much of the pain in the world today. Christ taught forgiveness, and that is the starting point for resolving conflicts in any season of the year.
— John N. Clayton © 2022