“Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive...” C.S. Lewis
Forgiveness can be an easy thing to talk about, but it is a difficult thing to practice. We find it easy to accept the forgiveness God offers through His Son Jesus Christ, yet we often have a hard time forgiving other people.
Why is forgiveness difficult? There are many reasons, but here are few. The need for forgiveness involves...
Real pain and hurt
Living with that pain and hurt
Damage to real relationships
Forgetting about getting even
Seeking to restore relationships even when you were wronged
While forgiveness is difficult, it is a necessary part of living the Christian life. It is not an option of whether or not we should forgive others, it is a requirement. It is more than a nice idea. Refusing to forgive is to choose to live contrary to the example Christ gave us.
Jesus is our example and the reason we can forgive others. He suffered on the Cross to take our sins upon Himself. My forgiveness came at a price; it was not gained lightly. My forgiveness was paid for by the actual blood of Jesus Christ. His very real blood poured out on a cross to atone for my sins. Without His blood, I would still stand condemned.
Look at the example Jesus gave for us as recorded in 1 Peter 2:21-25
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
When we find ourselves struggling to forgive, we need to remember what He did. I need to look at His example on the cross. He suffered at the hands of vile sinners, yet He did not retaliate. They mocked Him and struck Him, yet He stayed silent. Instead of reacting or seeking vengeance or justice, He entrusted Himself and the situation to God the Father. When we are struggling, when we have been wronged, we tend to focus on ourselves. We focus on the pain that was caused; we wonder how someone could treat us that way. We let our minds go and take offense and grow angry because someone has dared to infringe upon our supposed rights. When we focus on ourselves, we begin to forget our own sins, and the pain we have caused others. We forget how our sins have been forgiven and how we have been healed by Jesus’ wounds. We struggle to forgive because we are looking and focusing on the wrong thing. We need to examine our own lives, look to Jesus, and continually entrust the whole situation to God the Father. He knows what is best.
Unfortunately, too often I think I know what is best; I think I know how much someone else should suffer after they have wronged me. But I don’t. God does. He knows, and He will handle it according to His will. I am not God, and I need to stop trying to do His job. I need to forgive others and give the situation over to Him (1 Peter 4:19). This starts one decision at a time but then will be ongoing. We will continue to struggle with wanting to focus back on the pain and hurt and grow bitter. And when that feeling pops up, we need to entrust it to God. May we forgive others as He has forgiven us. (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13)