Without exception all of us have been wronged by others. Some have been terribly hurt by a parent; perhaps abused by a father; betrayed by a spouse; wronged by a teacher or an employer, coach, close friend, business partner or church leader. The pain and hurt are profound. The sense of betrayal is devastating. It is easy to be overwhelmed with the injury and offense which causes tremendous pain, anger, resentment, and perhaps bitterness. We know we should forgive the person who has wronged us, but sometimes granting forgiveness is extremely difficult.
We have to admit that holding on to grudges and plotting revenge in our minds can be very enjoyable. It may make us feel superior to the person who wronged us. But by refusing to forgive we continue to hold on to the past, and are constantly looking back and talking about our past. We may also continue to see ourselves as victims, or are constantly looking for sympathy from others as we explain to them how we have been wronged.
C.S. Lewis said, “Forgiveness is a beautiful word until you have something to forgive.” In theory forgiveness is easy, but in practice it is often very difficult. Sometimes the desire to get even, and even the desire for revenge are so powerful that we find it almost impossible to forgive. We have to be honest with ourselves and admit that sometimes we don’t really want to forgive the person who has wronged us. Rather than forgiving them, we want to get even. After all we have been hurt by their words or attitudes or actions, and feel they need to pay for the wrong inflicted. They have hurt us and we want to hurt them. We might even feel that our anger and hate are the only weapons we have.
The apostle Peter asked: “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). And to illustrate that truth Jesus told an amazing parable in Matthew 18 in which He encouraged Peter to forgive “from your heart.” The perfect example of forgiveness comes from the Lord Jesus on the cross when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Forgiveness is one of the most beautiful words of the Gospel.
In classical Greek “forgiveness” was used in the world of commerce. It meant to release someone from a debt of obligation. For example if you owe someone $10,000, and they discharge the debt it is then “forgiven”. You are now free from that obligation. In the New Testament this word “forgiveness” from the world of commerce is used to explain the forgiveness of our sins. Our sin amounts to a debt piled high against us, but God is in the business of forgiving our sins. When God forgives our sin, the guilt is gone, the remorse is ended, and the emptiness of life is eradicated. This is the miracle of forgiveness.
Now those who have been forgiven by God should forgive others. We pray “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The more we understand God’s forgiveness, the more forgiving we will be of others. Is there someone you need to forgive? What a difference there would be in our home, work places and schools if we practiced forgiveness. “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). When you practice the wonder of forgiveness, you then will experience tremendous freedom and joy.