IT is that Sunday again when we read in the holy book the most important action for building healthy relationships in modern times.
This lesson was given by Prophet Issa bin Maryam a.k.a.Jesus Christ to his followers two thousand years ago, but has humanity learned it? Most likely not. Unforgiving individuals, groups, societies and nations abound on planet Earth.
The story of Prophet Issa and forgiveness goes like this. One day he was talking to his disciples, teaching them how to live in peace with their neighbours, friends and relatives as was his custom.
So he told them if a brother sins against you, do not go out to the market to broadcast the details to all and sundry. Instead talk to him one on one, and tell him his fault.
Why you and him alone? Because you will have the opportunity to repair the relationship without intervention from anybody else (this my own intepretation).
Can you imagine how much pain could be averted in our homes today if people talked to each other instead of going to the Caesar of the family? My sisters, if your hubby comes late from work, it does not mean he was with someone else.
Don’t go complaining to a neighbour, his daughter or your friend because any of them might confirm your suspicions without having any proof. And then you have aired your supposedly dirty laundry in public. As we say in Kiswahili, milk or water spilled once spilled cannot be retrieved from the ground.
Have you ever ‘lost’ money in the house and became agitated and started suspecting the maid, or other house guest of stealing, only to discover days or hours later that the money was there all the time? Or perhaps your son or husband had borrowed it?
Don’t you go telling the neighbours you know who stole the money unless you have proven it is stolen and the thief was Mr Zacharia. And when you do find the proof, go talk to the perpetrator and inquire gently what is going on?
As JC told his people that day, if the sinner admits his mistake and asks for forgiveness, you have gained back the maid or brother. However, if that brother, sister, friend or close person refuses to listen to you, then you can bring in an external party.
Take one or two others to hear and confirm the evidence as witnesses. Jesus said one or two only, not the whole village.
Am sure you know someone or other who was grieved by a close friend or relative and went on to tell the whole village, political party or the whole clan about it. O
kay they did not tell 100 people, they told just one friend/relative, who told her husband and one closest friend and the friend told his friends and before you knew it everybody except the accused had heard about it. Bad news or events spread faster than wild fires.
In this world, there is nothing secret once it is shared with just one person. We humans never learn. Two thousand years after Prophet Issa’s sermon, we are still spreading anger and resentment through accusations that have not been thoroughly explored and an amicable resolution sought.
It does not matter if the person is guilty or innocent, once you tell other people first, the goodwill to reconcile is lost. Anyway, this advice from Jesus raised a query from one of his most committed followers. This was none other than the one Christians call apostle Peter.
He asked the Teacher JC the question that perhaps the others did not dare to ask. How many times shall I forgive my brother if he keeps sinning against me? Would seven times be enough? Prophet Issa bin Maryam, peace be upon him told Peter, that seven times you mentioned? Multiply it by 70. We can imagine then 70 times seven was too much forgiveness for a lot of people.
Even now, there are many husbands who will not forgive their wives once for infidelity, wives and girlfriends who will not forgive their men twice for lying, and a brother who will not forgive another for being friendly with his business or political enemies.
I learnt a powerful lesson from one of my cousins a decade ago about who needs forgiveness and who deserves forgiveness. We were gathered to bury a loved one that day.
My wise cousin said the loved one was gone. There was no way she was coming back to ask for forgiveness for any wrong she committed. She needed our forgiveness because she would not rest in eternal peace.
Those believers not willing to forgive were blocking her path to paradise. My cousin also said sometimes people do or say something wrong or hurtful unknowingly. Those you should forgive too even if they think they did nothing wrong and are unwilling to apologise when you raise it with them.
Only a few people would do something to hurt you intentionally to either punish you or get even for something you did or are. My sisters and brothers on Mother Earth, do not suffer for by harbouring a cold stone in your chest for a dead relative, boss or friend who wronged you.
The dead need our forgiveness. The unintentional wrongdoers who are many, do not need forgiveness but forgive them anyway. It is the wives, husbands, friends and family, enemies, partners and competitors in life who deliberately sin against you who really need to be forgiven.
Do not wait for them to say their mea culpas. You will be dead and long gone before they admit they are sorry. When you forgive them, you will be at peace. You will heal inside. Forgiveness is not for the wrongdoer. So do not wait.
Forgive today. However, if they ask for forgiveness and you pronounce your absolution, they will also be at peace and will heal. To err is human and to forgive divine.