Forgiving Others and Being Forgiven
“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14–15
This passage presents us with an ideal we must strive for. It also presents us with the consequences if we do not strive for this ideal. Forgive and be forgiven. Both must be desired and sought after.
When forgiveness is properly understood, it is much easier to desire, give and receive. When it is not properly understood, forgiveness can be seen as a confusing and heavy burden and, therefore, as something undesirable.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to the act of forgiving another is the sense of “justice” that can appear to be lost when forgiveness is given. This is especially true when forgiveness is offered to someone who fails to ask forgiveness. On the contrary, when one does ask for forgiveness, and expresses true remorse, it is much easier to forgive and to abandon the feeling that the offender should “pay” for what was done. But when there is a lack of sorrow on the part of the offender, this leaves what can feel like a lack of justice if forgiveness is offered. This can be a difficult feeling to overcome by ourselves.
It’s important to note that forgiving another does not excuse their sin. Forgiveness does not mean that the sin did not happen or that it is OK that it happened. Rather, forgiving another does the opposite. Forgiving actually points to the sin, acknowledges it and makes it a central focus. This is important to understand. By identifying the sin that is to be forgiven, and then forgiving it, justice is done in a supernatural way. Justice is fulfilled by mercy. And the mercy offered has an even greater effect on the one offering mercy than the one it is offered to.
By offering mercy for the sin of another, we become freed of the effects of their sin. Mercy is a way for God to remove this hurt from our lives and free us to encounter His mercy all the more by the forgiveness of our own sins for which we could never deserve on our own effort.
It’s also important to note that forgiving another does not necessarily result in reconciliation. Reconciliation between the two can only happen when the offender accepts the forgiveness offered after humbly admitting their sin. This humble and purifying act satisfies justice on a whole new level and enables these sins to be transformed into grace. And once transformed, they can even go so far as to deepen the bond of love between the two.
Reflect, today, upon the person you most need to forgive. Who is it and what have they done that has offended you? Do not be afraid to offer the mercy of forgiveness and do not hesitate in doing so. The mercy you offer will bring forth the justice of God in a way that you could never accomplish by your own efforts. This act of forgiving also frees you from the burden of that sin and enables God to forgive you of your sins.