As I was working on several projects and reviewing manuscripts this week, I noticed that a couple – one fiction and the other non-fiction – carried the theme of forgiveness.
Jesus on the cross is perhaps our greatest example of when and how to forgive others. When He uttered “Father, forgive them because they don’t know that they’re doing.” He was in the throes of agony, both physically and spiritually. Yet in that moment, He was so motived by His love for us, that He chose to forgive. Today He still chooses to forgive us.
Scripture teaches us the importance of forgiveness. Jesus addresses it at least twice in His sermon on the mount. He tells us that we forgive, because our Heavenly Father forgives us. Matthew chapters 6 and 18 contain great instruction on forgiving others.
The dictionary offers these simple definitions of the word ‘forgive’: to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone) : to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong) : to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)
I really like that last definition. It encapsulates the Gospel message that Jesus has already paid the price that our sins deserve. The psalmist acknowledged that “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalms 103:10 ESV). Forgiveness is the cornerstone of the Gospel message.
Of all the themes that show up on the printed page (or the Kindle) perhaps forgiveness is the one that is needed most. It is universal, it touches every life. Think of the times that you have been forgiven by others. It’s humbling. And think of the times that you have extended forgiveness to others. That is even more humbling, because you’ve given up your right of retribution.
I’ve also been thinking a lot lately how we, as creative people, can bring beauty into our work. By drawing attention, even subtly, to themes of mercy, grace and forgiveness in our writing we bring beauty into the lives of our readers. Forgiveness leads to light and life. Think again of Jesus’ words on the cross. His forgiveness brings eternal life. That’s a beautiful thing. But bitterness, a by-product of not forgiving, consumes us and harms us deep inside. That’s dark and ugly. The words you write, whether fiction or non-fiction, inspire and inform. Speak the power of forgiveness into the lives of your readers.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson summarizes one of my favorite passages of Scripture, Philippians 4:8, this way: Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
Is there anything more noble and beautiful to write about than forgiveness?