Summary of the Article
The article generally speaks of the reality of forgiveness and what it brings to other people in an individual and group basis. It begins with the realization that, according to studies, forgiveness interventions results in decreased anxiety, depression, and anger, and in increased self-esteem, hope, and positive affect (Magnuson & Enright, 2008). These factors show that forgiveness can provide beneficial impacts upon society at large.
The model for forgiveness intervention by Enright and Worthington were first implemented in educational institutions as a social scientific work. However, an emphasis was given on the fact that forgiveness first finds its shape in the Scriptures. Thus, the reality of forgiveness should begin in the community of Bible-believing individuals and groups – which is the church. The article provides an initial model of forgiveness education in the context of the Church as a Forgiving Community.
This model considers the various aspects of the Church: pastoral staff, ministry, families, lay workers, and more. It begins with the responsibility of the pastor. Being the head/shepherd of the church, the pastor should make sure the congregation is exhorted with the Word of God regarding forgiving each other. The model suggests that 10% of the yearly sermons should cover the topic on forgiveness. Being led by the senior pastor in forgiveness education, the pastoral staff should also be equipped of this forgiveness model. The pastor, staff members, and lay workers of the church work together, and are also vulnerable [daily] of problems concerning forgiveness. Moreover, the associate ministers should also include this model in their own ministries: music, youth, children, adults, counseling, and other discipleship groups. For instance, the music minister is encouraged to implement songs that link with the elements of forgiveness, grace, mercy, confession, and repentance (Magnuson & Enright, 2008). This allows even the singers to meditate on the songs, and thereby learn the essence of forgiveness. Youth and children ministry leaders are encouraged to include forgiveness curriculum in their classes and other activities. Since forgiveness is efficient in adulthood, it is proper to start building it in the lives of children. Further, the forgiveness model includes the family. A healthy church is composed of healthy families. The article suggests that if forgiveness is practiced at home, it will certainly reach the entire congregation.
The entire article concludes that forgiveness does not only provide physical, psychological, and emotional benefits. It is a way of life that allows a community to grow and survive, and the church should deem it that way.
Reflection on the Article
At first, the author(s) rightly say that forgiveness is a biblically-based pattern for the church to develop and live by. However, the model seemed laid more on a psychological and relational perspective. The reference on the Gospel was made only the early part of the article but not along the process of the forgiveness education. In the biblical perspective, forgiveness is not about attaining to self-esteem but about looking away from self and unto Christ. Indeed, forgiveness may include psychological and relational necessities and benefits. However, the Scripture is clear that the basis for the necessity and benefit of forgiveness is the work of Christ. The repentant offenders must find courage mainly in the assurance of the Gospel and not on the forgiveness of others. Even if others seem to withhold forgiveness (especially when the offense is great), the repentant offender should remain steadfast in the process of reconciliation and restoration, simply looking to Christ as his/her living hope.
Nevertheless, the article well-addresses the common problem in many churches today. When offended by fellow brethren, many Christians stay away from them. Worse than that, gossips arise and the problems go deeper within the body of Christ. That is what Paul also includes in his epistles. The article rightly suggests that forgiveness should be a reality in the various aspects of the church: the pulpit, the ministries, the discipleship groups, and so on.
For further study, it would be appropriate to include the question, “What should accompany the process of forgiveness in the church in various contexts?” For instance, if great and malignant sin was committed, how does the church deal with forgiveness and discipline?
Application of the Article
In application, this information provided by the article can be beneficial – particularly in the case of spousal infidelity. In counseling individuals involved (the husband and wife), it is necessary to deal first with the offender. Repentance cannot be genuine unless the offender realizes the depth of his/her offense against God and his/her partner. Likewise, forgiveness cannot be genuine unless the offender is truly repentant. Upon realizing it, the offender will be encouraged to ask for forgiveness in humility and sincerity. He/she will be reminded that the process will not be easy, and that forgiveness will not likely be granted instantly. Thus, the offender should work out to regain the trust of his/her partner in words and actions on a daily basis. Further, he/she is exhorted to throw away anything related to his/her offense, and thereby help the offended see the sincerity of the offender’s resolution for reconciliation and restoration.
In the same time, the offended individual will be required to assess the repentance of the unfaithful spouse. He/she will be exhorted to allow the offender to undergo the process of reconciliation, and not to be ignorant of the offender’s actions. He/she may choose not to grant forgiveness verbally and instantly, but he/she is encouraged to participate with the repentant offender in bringing back their communication (verbal and physical) and trust on a daily basis until full forgiveness and reconciliation from the particular offense is attained.
Magnuson, C., & Enright, R. (2008). The church as forgiving community: An initial model. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 36(2), 114-123.