“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
I Have To Forgive
Forgiving others is a commandment of Christ. I struggle with this, especially when it comes to the Armenian Genocide. One hundred years ago, Christians within the Ottoman Empire were nearly eradicated. To this day, the Turkish government denies that decimation ever occurred. My faith tells me that I must forgive murderers and genocide deniers, even though I do not feel like it.
What Forgiveness Isn’t
Forgiveness isn’t contingent upon the perpetrators’ recognition of their crime. When Christ forgave us on the cross, he didn’t wait for an apology, he forgave. You can forgive someone who is not willing to change, however it would be unwise to trust that person.
Forgiveness does not remove memory. The saying “forgive and forget” is not in the Bible. To forget means ignoring the injustice. To not remember implies being naive about the consequences. The holes in Jesus’ hands are a reminder of the price of God’s forgiveness.
What Forgiveness Is
Forgiveness comes from God. Every week, Armenian churches around the world sing the Lord’s Prayer. The petition, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” is more than a line of song: it is the lifestyle of a Christian. We ask God for forgiveness when we sin. We also ask God for strength to forgive those who have sinned against us. We must forgive as God forgives.
Forgiveness is letting go of vengeance and trusting God’s judgment. Forgiveness uproots anger, bitterness, rage, and anything else that poisons our ability to love God, ourselves, and others. Forgiveness is not only a gift to the perpetrator; it is also a gift to the one who forgives.
Forgiveness For RECONCILIATION
Forgiveness is necessary for reconciliation. For reconciliation to occur perpetrators need to seek forgiveness for their wrong and the victim needs to be willing to forgive.
Time does not heal all wounds; only forgiveness and reconciliation can do that. The wounds of the Armenian Genocide have been open for a century. Forgiveness, coupled with acknowledgment that the genocide occurred, is the only way that the difficult process of reconciliation can begin. I pray that all Turks wake up to the facts and recognize the Armenian Genocide. I pray that Armenians are able to forgive Turks, just as Christ has forgiven us.