Sometimes Forgiveness is Hard

This morning, as I enjoyed my cup of coffee on the deck, I read an article about the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky issue. The title was Penn State Doesn’t Get to Decide JoePa’s Legacy: I Know. It was written by 52 year old columnist Mike Wise. Mike is not only a writer; he’s also a survivor of child abuse who has decided to no longer be silent. You can read his entire article here. It’s powerful.

For most of us from PA, Penn State football is big. Even if you’re not a football fan in PA you know the name Joe Paterno. And now we all know the infamous name Jerry Sandusky.

Jerry Sandusky got what he deserved – 30-60 years in prison. He will die there. But what about JoePa? What does (did – he died in 2012) he deserve? We’re still struggling to determine exactly what Joe Paterno’s legacy should look like. This month during a game against Temple Penn State honored him on the 50th anniversary of his first game as head coach at Penn State. It only served to further divide the community.

And we’re growing weary. We’ve lived with the scandal for too long. We’re tired of hearing about it. We want to move on. But it’s still there staring us in the face. And we know that the victims will never be able to move on from it.

It was obvious to me as I read the article that Mike has struggled – and is still struggling to move on from something that happened 40 years ago. My heart goes out to him. But I can’t walk in his shoes or understand his pain – thank God I’ve never been there.

And that brings me to forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness is hard.

Forgiving is one of the most difficult things that Christians have been asked to do. Especially when someone has hurt you as deeply as Jerry Sandusky hurt his victims – as deeply as Mike Wise was hurt.

But not forgiving can never be an option.

Choosing not to forgive will destroy the fabric of your soul. It will eat at your heart as surely as cancer eats at your body.

When it comes to forgiveness, God asks us to walk the difficult road. He asks us to do what goes against every inclination and desire of our being. He asks us to do what is often humanly impossible; to do what is possible only by the grace of God. Forgive the Offender.

The Bible is clear that there are consequences for not forgiving.

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to exclude yourself from God’s forgiveness (Matthew 6:15, Mark 11:25 – this has nothing to do with salvation but everything to do with cleansing, fellowship and growing in Christ).

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to bring contamination into your own soul (Hebrews 12:15).

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to defile those you love the most (Hebrews 12:15).

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to reject the example of Christ (Luke 23:34).

When you choose not to forgive you are choosing to place yourself under the judgment of God (Matthew 18:35)

Mike Wise doesn’t know it, but his struggles in life weren’t just the result of someone abusing him. Those results would have been bad enough, but they were compounded by his lack of forgiveness of the offender.

I’m not saying it is easy – it isn’t. It’s hard. Perhaps the hardest thing that you will ever have to do. But the alternative is even worse.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve


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