Will you – can you – forgive?
That is the question we explore in our new series, Forgiveness Fridays. And it’s fitting to kick off the series honoring the person who first sparked my interest in writing about forgiveness, Jill Saward. Dubbed for years as the “Ealing vicarage rape victim,” she was a tireless campaigner for those affected by sexual violence. She died yesterday following a stroke, only 51 years old.
What caught my eye back in 2006 was an article online about Jill and forgiveness, for she forgave her attackers. When one of them, who hadn’t had any part of the rape, but hadn’t tried to stop it either, was released from jail, he wanted to meet her. He sought forgiveness. And she forgave him, to the disbelief of many. As she said,
“It’s not a question of whether you can or can’t forgive. It’s a question of whether you will or won’t.
“Of course, sometimes I thought it might be quite nice to be full of hatred and revenge. But I think it creates a barrier and you’re the one who gets damaged in the end. So, although it makes you vulnerable, forgiving is actually a release. I don’t think I’d be here today without my Christian faith. That’s what got me through.”
We may not – I hope not – have to forgive someone for such a life-changing crime, but we all have to forgive people who have wronged us. Will we hold onto, and even nurse our bitterness? Or will we let it go, with the help of God, and embrace the freedom and joy God gives upon its release?
My new book for Lent, The Living Cross, looks at this question in a series of daily Bible readings. You can buy a copy through me, at good Christian bookshops in the UK, or online at Eden, or of course through Amazon. In the States it is only available through Amazon.