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This is long… forgive me.

December 3rd, 2005

Greetings, friends! I come with a very defined purpose. I want to write and write and write about one thing: forgiveness.

I’ve been wondering — why is it so hard for people to forgive? If I step on your toe and apologize, you’ll probably forgive me and say, “Ah, that’s no problem.” But when there is something bigger — whether it’s somebody who wronged you, deceived you, abused you, has taken advantage of you — so many times, I’ll hear people — even Christians — who still haven’t forgiven somebody for something that may be five, 10, 20 years old!

So I’ve got to wonder — why? For one, I think people have a tendency to think that if they forgive somebody for a grave injustice, that’s the same as them endorsing the sin or the transgression. This is absolutely not the case. If this were true, then that would mean forgiving a rapist would be saying, “Hey, that’s okay, buddy. That wasn’t wrong.” It’s obvious that thinking that way would be insane.

Another reason I believe it’s hard to forgive is because there’s this urge to spitefully think, “Well, you caused me this pain, this trouble, and this is my way of not letting you off the hook.” This is terrible, and I think it’s damaging to both the “criminal” and the “victim.” A repentant transgressor would, of course, long to hear the words that they are forgiven by the person they wronged.

When the victim harbors resentment and refuses to forgive, I happen to think that the person that experiences the most damage as a result of that is the victim. It is extremely unhealthy to keep up that contempt for somebody, and I honestly think it really hurts the person who is holding that grudge.

Think about Jesus as He was dying on the cross. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” These people were murdering Him in the most horrible way imaginable. They were mocking Him, spitting at Him, laughing at Him as they were murdering Him. Despite that, He chose — while up on that cross — to forgive them.

1 John 1 8-9: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 10:17: Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.

Isaiah 43:25: I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

Psalm 103: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

So here we have just seen that God’s mercy is incredible, that not only does He forive our sins, but He goes a step further and forgets them! He doesn’t say, “You’re forgiven, but…” or say, “What? This sin again? I already forgave you for it, like, 10 times!” Plus, He doesn’t harbor anger or resentment once you’re forgiven, which is something us humans could stand to work on sometimes.

Matthew 6:14-15: 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.

There is a flip side to this, though. Jesus said God will not forgive us if we do not forgive those who have sinned against us. That means that we are not allowed to not forgive someone. We are not allowed to hold grudges. We are not allowed to make someone suffer because they wronged us.

Additionally, if a holy and just God, who despises sin — if He is able to forgive someone, shouldn’t we do the same? How can we argue that? “Well, yeah, but… this person made me suffer.” Still, though — if God can forgive, so can we.

We need to practice forgiveness in big things and in small. It is so harmful for us to hold grudges, and it separates us from God. And practically speaking, I don’t know how in the world you can “move on” and start to heal from something if you will not make the decision in your heart to forgive the person.

The good news is forgiving someone can also be so freeing to both people. The transgressor feels the relief to know that he is forgiven (think of how you feel when you realize that God will forgive you of your sins), and the person who forgives and chooses to rid of that resentment will feel totally different.

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