I was listening to some people at church one day and they said they could never forgive someone for what they had done. How often do we hear this from our christian friends? If this is not what is said aloud then sometimes it is seen by the actions of some. We live in a world where an unforgiving attitude is common place. It is seen as much in the secular world as much as it is seen in the christian community. Forgiveness destroys relationships and families as well as the church.
In Mathew 6 Jesus instruct the disciples to pray for forgiveness and adds that if they do not forgive others God will not forgive them. When we first come to Christ, we ask him to forgive our sins and become our Lord and Savior, this is not what Jesus is referring to here. Jesus is talking to his followers (Christians) and is referring to the unforgiving spirit after we start to follow him. There are those who really do not deserve to be forgiven, they have no remorse for what they have done, they continue to do the same things, are even proud of what they have done so why should we forgive them?
Can we look at this with some logic? When we are unforgiving we are harboring hate toward that person. Hate will effect our health, our actions, and our relationship with other, even innocent people. Our hate for another will not change the other person and can cause the other person to antagonize us more. Jesus said that we are to love our enemies and not hate them, this will pour coals of fire on their heads (interesting thought). Hatred for our enemies robs of of the joy that is all around us and of the joy God has to give us.
What would happen if we did forgive others? Some have said that we are to forgive others to the point that we forget what they have done. If they have not repented of their wrong doing, they will continue to repeat themselves and we will end up hurt again. At times we will need to put up some type of protection to prevent the same situation from accuring. When we have forgiven others we will be able to receive the joy of the Lord again.
How can we forgive others? Scripture tells us to pray for our enemies. This will put them into the hands of God and he will deal with them. Vengeance is mine says the Lord. It will also give us a new found love for them. It does not mean we have to be around them or put ourselves in harms way. This love, Christ’s love, is meant to draw people to God not to drive them away.
There are hurts that are to deep to forgive and it takes time for forgiveness to come. Jesus may have felt that way on the cross. He prayed that the Father would forgive them. The Romans that nailed him to the cross, the Jews who called for his death, the sinners that were complacent in his death. Our hurts go to deep for us to forgive others. As we imitate Jesus on the issue of forgiveness we need His spirit within us to be able to forgive others. We may not have the power to forgive inside of us but Jesus does through his spirit. Jesus was able to forgive others and then he was able to preach the good news to those who had rejected him. With his spirit we can do the same.
As you imitate Christ may you find new joy in forgiveness.