We like dishing out forgiveness about as much as having a root canal… without anesthesia! We can grow comfortable in our disdain for the offender, because we are after all “the offended.”
I find humor and some truth to what William P. Young wrote in his book The Shack:
Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat… Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established… Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation… Forgiveness does not excuse anything… You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness.
After reading this quote many would be tempted to say that forgiveness is purely fictitious in nature, just like the Young’s book. (Except for the “hands to the throat part;” we like that!)
Perhaps a word from a gentler spirit would provide some insight? Mahatma Gandhi said in his autobiography that “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Ouch! That’s a little strong too!
I find what Jesus says to be spot on when he instructs His followers about how to pray . There in that passage, right after declaring the holiness of the Father and His Kingdom and doing God’s will above His own, Jesus says in Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (NLT)
It is safe to say that we have all played the roll of the offended and the offender at one time or another. When we offend, we hope to receive forgiveness freely, but when we are offended we tend to grip grace tightly. According to Christ, without forgiveness of others we remove that same blessing for us.
In the follow-up passages Jesus says, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NLT)
Bitterness, hatred, not forgiving… These things enslave us. Forgiving and the extension of grace frees us. Pray and then take that first step towards freedom!