On Dec. 31, 2013, I was standing in a place called The Bund in Shanghai, China.
About 30 minutes before midnight, my oldest was sitting on my shoulders and my youngest was held by my wife.
Around us thousands of people had gathered awaiting the fireworks that would bring in the New Year.
So many thoughts ran through my head, but mostly I was excited to be where I was.
I imagine that is why every year thousands of people flock to Times Square in New York City to watch the ball drop.
For a lot of people the New Year brings a lot of nostalgia.
They fondly look back on the past like an open book recalling events, times and places that have some significant meaning in their lives.
For other people, they look back on the previous year and say “good riddance.”
Those people have no desire to remember the terrible events that happened the previous year because those events have hurt them in some way.
And really, who could blame them?
However, the problem with good riddance is it isn’t growth.
At best it is just avoidance until it has to be confronted again.
The events that happen in our lives are still part of the past and make us who we are today.
To be able to move forward we need to learn how to forgive.
As Christians, we forgive because we have been forgiven.
An article I read a few weeks ago on forgiveness asked the reader to consider the following question: Is it harder to judge sin or forgive sin?
Both are a required part of being a Christian and difficult in their own right, but I’m willing to bet most of you would say forgiving sin is harder than judging.
After all, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) yet God in his infinite mercy forgives us (Hebrews 8:12).
One thing I have observed about forgiveness is it is increasingly more difficult the more personal it becomes.
We will quickly forget about those who cut us off in traffic but forever hold a grudge against those who gossiped about us in high school.
With God, we can’t even claim our offenses aren’t personal.
All sin is personal to God because all sin cuts us off from God.
We deserve God’s wrath.
Fortunately, we receive grace and mercy.
Paul writes, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved,” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Forgive like you have been forgiven.
Make 2020 the year of forgiveness.
Embrace your past as a part of you and use it as an opportunity to grow and share in that growth.
Forgiveness isn’t about letting a person escape consequences for their actions, but allows both parties to achieve peace.
In 2019 we saw one of best moments in forgiveness when a man hugged the woman who killed his brother.
Yes, she will still go to prison, but maybe both of these people will find peace.
Finally, remember to forgive yourself.
If God can forgive us, we certainly can forgive ourselves.
I will admit this is easier said than done.
Forgiving yourself can be harder than forgiving others because we tend to judge ourselves more harshly.
Fortunately, with Christ’s help, forgiveness can be found.
Peter writes, “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7).
You may still have to deal with the consequences surrounding the situation, but through resolution will you be able to “forget what lies behind and stain forward to what lies ahead,” (Philippians 3:13).
If you struggle, that is okay, we are here for you.
If you need help with forgiveness, we at the Warrensburg Church of Christ are happy to help.
Our door is open.