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Real Answers™
Copyright: © 2009 Donald E. Lindman
500 words


By: Don Lindman


Suburban Chicago pastor Brian Coffey vividly remembers participating in a sixth-grade school yard kickball game.   The smallest player lay sprawled face down in the dirt, glasses lying several feet away.  She had been hit in the head by a ball thrown by the biggest boy. 

Like typical sixth-graders, Coffey and the other boys who were playing looked at the girl and laughed. 

Sometime later Coffey began to feel that his reaction had been wrong, but the first opportunity he had to tell the girl this was at a high school reunion several decades later.  After some typical reunion small talk, Coffey said, “I think I owe you an apology.”

“No, you don’t,” the woman responded.

Coffey was wondering if they were talking about the same thing because he hadn’t even told her yet, but then she added, “It’s the kickball game, right?”

“Yes,” said Coffey.

“You don’t need to apologize,” she continued. “I forgave all you guys a long time ago.  Life is too short to carry that sort of stuff around with me.”

At that moment she became a very tall person in Coffey’s eyes.

True forgiveness is costly.  Dr. David Augsburger, professor of counseling and pastoral care at Fuller Theological Seminary, notes that in real forgiveness the person being forgiven takes on the responsibility for and consequences of the act needing forgiveness.

“If I break a priceless heirloom that you treasure, and you forgive me, you bear the loss and I go free.  In forgiveness, you bear your own anger and wrath at the sin of another, voluntarily accepting responsibility for the hurt he has inflicted on you.”

A lot of what we call “forgiveness” is of the “oh, it was nothing” or “don’t worry about it” or “I’ve forgotten it already” sort.  Those responses diminish the importance of the offense and of the offender; you’re telling them that they don’t really amount to much as far as you’re concerned.  That doesn’t help a whole lot.

The Bible says that when Jesus hung on the cross he prayed for his persecutors: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t understand what they’re doing.”  It was their wrong that put him there, but he’s saying that he will carry the burden of what they did without asking that they be held accountable for it.

Christian theology has expanded this to include our sins, not just theirs.  We deserve punishment from God for our sin, but Jesus says, “Put it all on me.  I will carry it.”

How that happens, I don’t pretend to understand.  But I have come to understand a little better the nature of forgiveness and the fact that I was included in his prayer.

Did the girl in the kickball game really understand forgiveness when she matured into adulthood?  I don’t know, but I hope so.  At least she was able to put it aside far enough to not let it undermine her life or a high school reunion encounter. 

"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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