Forgive and Be Forgiven

February 24, 2019
Because we are relational beings, we often find ourselves offending one another, either intentionally or unintentionally, by our words, actions or inaction. Unless the offense is quickly arrested, it can result in resentment, which then graduates into hatred, anger, bitterness and wrath. For this reason, the apostle Paul admonished believers saying, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13). Indeed, the best tool to conquer an offense is forgiveness. Forgiveness is an act of pardoning or liberating an offender so that you do not consider him as an enemy but as a brother who happened to have offended you.
 
In one of his teachings, the Lord Jesus emphasized the importance of forgiveness when he said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15). If we choose not to forgive, nobody else will suffer but us, since our own sins will not be forgiven by God. In the prayer that Jesus taught us, he stressed the fact that God will only forgive us to the extent we forgive others. In this prayer, we are to say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).
 
But is forgiveness to be construed as an act of condoning others’ actions? Certainly not! In fact, we are not to call evil good. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20). Our forgiveness towards others is more for our benefit. The ultimate judge is God, and he will deal with the offending party accordingly. When God forgives us of our sins, this does not mean he is condoning them.
 
Though God commanded us to forgive, we still find it difficult to do. This is particularly so when we set a limit on the number of times that we have to forgive. In the case of Peter, he was willing to forgive up to seven times only. However, Jesus said, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22). In response, the disciples said, “Lord, increase our faith!” Yes, we need faith even to forgive. But why is it so hard to forgive? There are varied reasons, but the more common ones are the following:
 
The offended party is still hurting. It is not easy to forgive when you are still hurting, especially if the person who offended you is very close to you. If it was another person, it might have been easier to forgive. This was the struggle of King David. He said, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). Nevertheless, we are commanded to forgive out of love. The apostle Peter said, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
 
The offended party refuses to be taken advantage of. We have the wrong notion that when we keep an unforgiving attitude, we are able to defend ourselves from abuse. Well, this is the lie of the devil, since un-forgiveness causes us to suffer more. Even if people abuse our goodness, God will repay us accordingly. The apostle Peter said, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17).
 
The offended party is still walking under the dictates of the sinful nature. This has been the struggle of many. While they want to forgive, they are hindered by their sinful nature. The apostle Paul said, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires” (Rom. 8:5). As Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matt. 26:41).
 
The offended party is oppressed by pride. Another wrong notion that we have is that if we forgive others, it is a sign of weakness and we are lowering ourselves. As a result, we tend to lift ourselves up to project an image of strength. The apostle Paul said, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:3). Therefore, let us humble ourselves before God and forgive others, that he will exalt us in due time (James 4:10).