THE NEED FOR FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness is what we received when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We didn’t receive it because we deserved it, but it was the gift of grace to us. As freely as we received it, we should give it. When we forgive someone, whether they deserved it or not, we somehow set ourselves free. We free ourselves from holding a grudge, and receive God’s peace instead.
When we pray the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ we say: “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we are reluctant to forgive others, we are asking God also to be reluctant to forgive us.
“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.”
THE REASON FOR FORGIVENESS
The reason we need to forgive is ‘obedience’. When God instructs us to do something it is for our own good:
“Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
It is in choosing to let go of anger that we make space to receive God’s love and grace.
When we receive God’s unconditional love we love others unconditionally.
THE WAY OF FORGIVENESS
So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Saying that we are sorry is something difficult to do for most. Admitting one’s guilt requires humility and truth. Our pride does not allow us to ‘give in’ to it easily. At times those who have hurt us do not acknowledge that they have done so. This is why our Lord directs us to ‘rebuke’ those who sin. I see this ‘rebuke’ as an act of love, for it is in directing someone that we redeem them for God. In showing someone their sins, we give them an opportunity to repent and be at peace with God, themselves and others. The way of forgiveness is not to react out of anger and hate, but rather out of compassion and love. It is putting someone else’s needs before our own.
THE DIFFICULTY IN FORGIVENESS
Many find it difficult to forgive. The reasons could be numerous: “They started it.”, “They never apologised for what they did.”, “The hurt is too great.”, “And they won’t acknowledge that they did anything wrong, they keep doing it repeatedly.” In my experience, I’ve found that to ignore the person and cut them off is easier than to confront them. It might be because of our pride, fear of rejection or reluctance to open up a can of worms. It also might be that we might make matters worse, so we sweep the issue under the rug.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘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-seven times.’”
THE BENEFIT OF FORGIVENESS
At times we seek to avenge those who have hurt us, but the Scriptures tell us:
1 Peter 3:9
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
When we trust in God and rely on His grace to help us, we will reap the benefit of His peace and love. We will live with a renewed mind and contrite heart, which has compassion for our humanity. We will learn to pray for and bless our enemies, as Jesus did:
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”
We all derive from different backgrounds and have different ways of dealing with things. We need to understand each other with God’s love and compassion. Nobody is perfect but God’s perfect love, for God is love. In accepting Jesus into our hearts, we can accept God’s love. Through His Holy Spirit we are able to forgive.
Catherine de Valence
Cape of Good Hope