A large chunk of the New Testament is correspondence from an early church planter named Paul to various infant churches he helped found. We have two letters that Paul wrote to a church in a town called Corinth. The second of which found the small church struggling with internal strife, betrayals, and persecutions. Times were hard and only growing more difficult for the Corinthian people, they needed both encouragement and direction. He told them that Satan was outwitting them, and causing them to turn on each other and treat each other horribly. The way they were being outwitted was simple and devastating. They were carrying grudges and refusing to forgive each other. Satan’s main goal wasn’t to tempt them to sleep around, start a cult, or build a casino. It was to tempt them to withhold forgiveness from each other. When forgiveness fails everything else crumbles.
Forgiveness reminds us that our guiding principle when interacting with each other is grace not justice. When we refuse to treat people with grace, we become obsessed with a fairness that does not exist. Fairness does not exist in relationships because life is not fair and at our core neither are we. We tend to either, devalue others and elevate ourselves, or we worship others and hate ourselves, and neither of those extremes lead to fairness. When I give up my obsession with things being fair and choose to forgive instead, it releases the person who has wronged me, but more than that it declares that no evil exists that can crush me, because I always have the freedom to choose to forgive. Evil is not overcome by strength and power, but by humility and forgiveness. Forgiveness is my reminder that it was never my job to keep score. I’m a lousy scorekeeper, and to be honest, so are you. Trying to punish myself for the wrongs I’ve done, or punish someone else for theirs is exhausting. Forgiveness is letting go. It’s not giving up on justice, just admitting that justice isn’t really our job. Forgiveness is the only food that will adequately nourish our souls.