Expressions of Faith
Your pain will heal, if you forgive
By Francis S. Oda
Over lunch recently, a good friend and well-known business leader shared his revelation about apology and the need for it to address past wrongs. "I see that we need to apologize before we can go forward as a community," he said.
He had gone to four meetings on racial/cultural issues and come away with this conviction, especially in regard to past treatment of Hawaiians. Only then, he and many attending the meeting concluded, could we get to reconciliation and healing.
True, there is a great need for reconciliation and healing as the stresses appear to be growing here as in many other places. Angry and hurt voices continue to emerge, decrying current and past sins against a race or people.
While I took what my friend said with great seriousness, I disagreed with him. What he and many feel is right and necessary is, in my opinion, putting the cart before the horse. Instead, I suggested another pattern which we see in the Bible. That is: Forgive independent of apology. "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.' " (Matt.18:21-23)
Why does Jesus not want us to wait for an apology from the person who "sins against me?" Because he wants us to be FREE. When we wait for the other person to apologize before we unburden ourselves of the hurt, frustration, anger and bitterness resulting from the trespass, we are in bondage to that person. What if he or she never repents? We are forever in bondage.
God's way is better. Forgive and be set free from the sins of others here and now.
Is there a place for repentance? Of course, but it's more for the benefit of the offender. When he or she repents, he or she is also set free and it is our place to offer our forgiveness.
So how does this work in our community? I suggest that we, individually and collectively, forgive past offenses and wrongs (as bad as they might be) and be set free from anger and bitterness.
These wrongs may include the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the World War II internment of Japanese Americans, racially motivated exclusion and other sins.
If those who took part in the wrongs (or those who represent the ones who took part) choose to apologize and repent, wonderful. They, too, will be set free! If not, that will remain their burden to bear. However, their lack of apology should not stall our moving forward as individuals, as a community, as an 'ohana. Let us humbly put the horse before the cart.
Francis S. Oda is pastor of the House of Prayer Church in Kaimuki.
Expressions of Faith is a column written individually by pastors, lay workers and other leaders of religious, spiritual or faith-based organizations. If you want to contribute, e-mail email@example.com or call 525-8036.