If you’ve ever been part of a family quarrel or had a skirmish
with someone at school, you already have some idea of what
forgiveness, or the lack of it, can do.
No matter how small or simple, quarrels set up barriers
between people. Take a fight between friends, for instance. As
long as friends get along, they can enjoy each other and be
themselves without worrying when they are together, But when
a quarrel gets started, all of that changes. The good times are
replaced by hurt feelings, suspicion, dislike, and maybe some
fear. The friendship gets blocked off.
These barriers close off the future, too. As long as friends
enjoy each other, they look forward to chances to do things
together, But when a quarrel breaks out, the future they looked
forward to together is lost. They start avoiding one another.
A quarrel like this can become another one of the old yous
merry-go-rounds. When one friend, accidentally or intention-
ally, hurts another, the friend who gets hurt will often repay
the hurt in kind. Soon there can be revenge for the revenge
and then maybe revenge for revenge for revenge, a full circle.
This doesn’t only happen in quarrels, though. All kinds of
things can make barriers between people. Even if it is as small
as not liking the way someone looks, the dislike blocks a
friendship. People who dislike you try to have as little to do
with you as possible. Then you don’t have any future with
them. If you return the dislike, the circle is completed
One way to stop merry-go-rounds like these is to declare a
ceasefire. Quarreling friends, for instance, will sometimes just
give up on each other. They stop fighting, but they don’t heal
the wounds. Leaving the barriers in place, they go their separate
ways, former friends who don’t fight anymore but don`t have
anything to do with each other, either.
The only other way to break the circle is through forgiveness.
It doesn’t just stop the circle; forgiveness breaks it up entirely,
clearing away the barriers and opening up the future again.
It`s usually not easy. When you ask someone to forgive you,
you admit a fault on your part. Y0u`re admitting, too, that you
really want and need that person for a friend. lt can be just as
hard when someone asks you for forgiveness. lf you do forgive
such a person, you’re admitting that you want and need the
But when forgiveness happens, everything opens up again.
It is a new beginning. All that has stood between you and the
other person is cleared away, and you have a future with that
The same thing happens when people accept you the way
you are, overlooking things that might make you unattractive.
When you are accepted, the barriers are broken and the future
is opened—you can make friends and look forward to good
times with people who take you the way you are.
That is how forgiveness works: It breaks down barriers and
opens up the future.
One of the barriers that can come between God and us is
our own guilt. It starts, like a quarrel, with something we do
or fail to do—something we do that is obviously wrong or
something we fail to do that clearly should have been done.
And then it accelerates into the conviction that God is going
to condemn us, that there’s no hope—even in God’s decision
Shame is another barrier. If guilt makes us feel bad about
something we’ve done, shame makes us feel bad about who
we are. We become so bad in our own eyes that we can`t
believe God would ever deal with the likes of us.
But there are many other barriers, as well. Even our little
worries can block the way. When the old you is worried, God
seems far away. Then you either get so caught up in all you
have to do each day that God doesn’t seem to matter, or else
you become convinced that God wouldn’t help you even if
But “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and
salvation? When God speaks the Word of forgiveness to you,
when Christ gives you the gift of forgiveness in the Supper,
God takes the axe to those barriers and shatters and splinters
them into a million pieces.
“This is my body,” he says, “given for you.” “This cup is the
new covenant [testament] in my blood, shed for you and for
all people for the forgiveness of sin.” It is as if Christ says,
“Here I am, right here, with you. All of your guilt is destroyed.
Everything that you’ve done and failed to do is wiped out I
accept you, without condition”.
The old Adam or Eve dies on these words. When it tries to
insist that God is too big and faraway to ever be interested in
all that you have to worry about, Christ says, “This is my body,
given for you—I am with you and for you.” When the old self
says, “l have to prove to God that I am religious and deserving,
that l’m not so bad after all,” Christ replies, “This is my blood,
shed for you. You don’t have to prove anything. I’m giving
myself to you completely.” ’
With the barriers destroyed, the future opens up to you.
Forgiveness packs a new future within itself When Christ says,
“This is my body and blood given and shed for you,” he is
giving himself to us so that we can count on him for the future.
Receiving his gifts, we can expect him to care for us and open
the way to the new day he has promised.
His blood is “shed for you and for all people] for you and
for all who commune with you, whether in your congregation
or in others throughout the world. In the Lords Supper, Christ
unites you with all of his people in the church so that you can
look forward to the future in the company of his saints, caring
for them and being cared for by them while you await the new
Excerpt from “Free To Be” – 1975