One of the most difficult things for any of us to do is to forgive. Forgive the person who has gossiped about you. Forgive the person who has lied to you. Forgive the bully. Forgive the cheat. Forgive the adulterer. Forgiving is not easy.
Forgiveness is uniquely a Christian responsibility. I don’t know of any place in scripture that tells a non-Christian to forgive. But it does teach Christians that they have a moral and spiritual obligation to forgive. The question that often runs through our minds is: Why should I forgive? That’s the right question and God has given us the answer. You should forgive because you have been forgiven. That’s one of the lessons of the parable Christ told in Matthew 18 when the disciples asked Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? (Matthew 18:21). In the parable one man who owed a rather large debt was forgiven but he was unwilling to forgive the small debt someone else owed to him. The relevant statement in the parable is in verse 33, should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you? That’s the issue we are faced with. God has had pity (mercy) on us and forgiven us much, yet we are unwilling to forgive our brother on smaller issues. We should forgive because we have been forgiven – much.
Another part of the answer to the question Why should I forgive? is that forgiveness says I have no interest in getting even. We have to admit that we don’t forgive because we secretly (sometimes not so secretly) hope that the person who has hurt us will be hurt in return. We want to get even. We want them to feel our pain. But as a Christian that is not an option for you. That is not your domain. Dr. Roger Moore, Vice-President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has written, When we forgive, we are confessing that vengeance is God’s (Rom. 12:19). We don’t need to exact justice from a fellow believer because justice has already fallen at the cross. We also don’t need to exact vengeance from an unbeliever because they are already under God’s judgment. Our hope for them should be that they come to Christ and find forgiveness, not judgment.
When you forgive someone you are saying that you can trust God. That He knows what is best for everyone involved and that He will handle it better than you can. Again, Dr. Moore says it well. You don’t have to store up bitterness, and you don’t have to find ways of retaliation for what’s been done to you. You can trust a God who is just.
And that’s the bottom line for the Christian. To forgive says that you trust God; that you can put it all into His hands. Not to forgive says that you don’t trust God – you don’t trust Him to do what is right; you don’t trust Him to take care of you. In reality forgiveness is more about you and God than it is about you and the person who hurt you.
Forgiveness is not easy. It is what God has asked you to do.
Stay in the Word