To Forgive or Not to Forgive
We have all heard that we should forgive others, that it's not only the right thing to do, but that it's actually good for us. While it's true that forgiveness leads us to a healthier mental and physical state than does holding onto anger and bitterness, it's often not that simple to get there, is it? Let's answer a few questions about forgiveness to better understand how we can get there.
What Exactly Does Forgiveness Mean?
Since God Himself is the author of forgiveness, His definition is better than any other. Throughout scripture, we are told that when we do something wrong, it is equivalent to incurring a debt (Luke 11:4, Colossians 2:14, Philemon 1:18).
Take God's law for example, the Ten Commandments, according to scripture, we've all broken God's laws. If you think you're a "good person," take this test and discover, that you too are guilty in God's eyes of breaking His laws and incurring a debt. Unfortunately, many people are deceived into thinking that they either have no debt or that they are capable of settling their debt with God on their own, when their pockets just aren't deep enough. Yet, God in His great love and mercy, became flesh, sending Jesus to Earth to take on the punishment that we deserve, so our case could be "legally dismissed" in God's heavenly courtroom. Having lived a perfect life, Jesus's pockets are plenty deep and sufficient to pay our debt and settle our account with God. So this brings us to what I believe to be the best definition of forgiveness:
Forgiveness is releasing someone from the debt they owe you.
To put it another way, forgiveness means that we are not going to "make them pay." Isn't that what makes forgiveness so difficult? If we release someone from a debt they owe us, aren't we letting them off scot-free? God addresses this by assuring us that vengeance is His, that He alone reserves the rights to justice and He rights every wrong ever done, either by paying the fine through Christ's sacrifice, or for those who tragically reject this grace, through eternal punishment and separation from God and His goodness (Romans 12:19).
Why Forgive Those Who Betray and Hurt Us?
If recognizing the tremendous debt we've been forgiven is not motivation enough to extend that same forgiveness to others, God tells us that there are consequences to unforgiveness. He gives us a compelling reason for why we ought to forgive others.
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. " Matthew 6:14-15