What kind of things would you do if you had only a few months to live? A few years ago, my friend Travis told me about a friend of his who found out that he had only a few months to live. Travis’s friend created a list of people with whom he needed to reconcile, and he spent the last weeks of his life making his best attempt to mend fences. He didn’t want to die with unforgiveness in his heart. His actions affected Travis greatly. Even though Travis wasn’t sick, he decided to do the same thing. Travis listed seven people with whom he needed to reconcile, and he began reporting to me each time he crossed a name off his list. I thought, what a great idea for everyone!
Travis’s list included someone who had said something bad about him, someone who had ripped him off in a lawsuit over his aunt’s estate, and an uncle who—angry at Travis’s mother—took the only piece of nice furniture Travis and his mother had (a trophy case that held all Travis’s trophies). Travis’s list also included his first wife. Even though Travis viewed himself as the one mostly at fault for their divorce, he still felt bitterness about things she had done and said to him. The hardest person for Travis to forgive was his father, who had abandoned him and his mother when he was as a child and with whom Travis had had no real ongoing relationship. Travis made a serious inventory of those he needed to forgive and is well on his way to checking off everyone on his list.
Forgiveness is a major theme in Scripture. Genesis tells the story of Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Part of the difficult relationship and hostility between Jews and Arab Muslims today can be traced back to the story of these two sons. They grew up together but lived apart when Abraham sent Ishmael away. God promised to bless both of their descendants and make them both into great nations. It is interesting to read what happened with both of them when their father Abraham died. Both Jews and Muslims trace their religious heritage back to Abraham. In Genesis 25, we read “Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people”—followed by an astounding sentence: “His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah” (Gen 25:9). The death of their father actually brought them together! Death can give us an opportunity for forgiveness and closure. We don’t know whether Isaac and Ishmael reconciled, but the opportunity was there. And the opportunity is still there: Jews and Arab Muslims could still be brought to love each other for the sake of their ancestor, Abraham.
Life is too short to carry a grudge!
Reflections: Make a list of those whom you need to forgive. Then ask God for the strength to forgive them and the wisdom to know whom you should approach to seek reconciliation.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.