Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Understanding Biblical Forgiveness

         What are we to do when we experience persistent resentment toward another person who wronged us in some way? First of all, it should be stated emphatically that anger is generally not an easy emotion to control and soothe. We have to admit to ourselves that we have all been treated unfairly at some point in time. We have to admit that we have been ridiculed. We have been mocked. We have been slandered. In short, we have all been offended. Some incidents are entirely accidental, whereas others are provoked intentionally. But what does it mean to offer forgiveness? Is it a necessary option? Why is it even important that we be reconciled with each other? What can be affirmed beyond any reasonable doubt is that the world cannot function in harmony without a personal examination of our consciences to see whether we are in an unwarranted manner holding past grievances committed against us.

        The scriptural definition of forgiveness means to not count an evil action against a guilty party. It means to grant pardon to an individual. It means to not plot revenge against the person who has engaged in offensive speech or conduct. It means to not hold any record of debt. Forgiveness involves the restoration of a person from his or her previous state of indignation. It is an act of love. It is an act of kindness. It is an act of compassion. It is an act of grace. It is not deserved. It is an act of the will. It is done deliberately (Matthew 18:21-22). Forgiveness of another person necessarily involves a change in attitude. It necessarily denotes a change in heart toward another person. It involves not dwelling on our past situations. Furthermore, the forgiveness offered by God involves Him erasing our debt of transgressions committed against Him (1 John 1:7-9). The characteristics of contempt and hostility are contrary to the ways of forgiveness. The person who has delivered an insult should not be regarded in ill-will. Forgiveness, on the other hand, does not require that we condone what has been said or done to us. Measures may still need to be taken, depending on the situational context of the relationship. We should always strive for resolution. It is conditional, namely in that wrongdoers should openly repent of their misdeeds (Luke 17:3-4). We can also choose to overlook another person's misbehavior. To forgive means to cease showing malice or resent toward another person for a mistake or offense.

         Unjustly withholding forgiveness to whom it is due can have drastic repercussions on both personal relationships and civilization on a large scale. If we allow our anger to continually scorch our hearts, then we will only act bitterly and defile the people around us. The Scriptures clearly warn against not striving to live peacefully with other people (Ephesians 4:31-32; Hebrews 12:14-15), and for good reason. In fact, unchecked anger is defilement in itself. A contentious relationship cannot successfully thrive because it closes the gates of compromise. It closes off any influx of human reason. Consequently, the situation will be rendered unworkable. Malice and strife can only hinder one from listening, and thereby from properly addressing the presented issues at hand. An unforgiving heart will only hold on to its subjective perception of reality. This is why the opposing sides of a vindictive matter tend to willfully misrepresent each other. At this moment, we have investigated the practical side of revealing clemency to the people who have repented of any possible mistreatment against us. Now, think of the aforementioned details in the context of family. This could lead to ruthless and unnecessary separation. It could lead to the destruction of property, and even lives. Allowing the flames of hatred to continually brew in our hearts can only lead up to the deterioration of good and moral values (these emotional fumes need to be quenched by the waters of God's mercy). Think of this scenario in the much broader spectrum of society, which comprises of families in different classes. This would only result in war. It would only result in hopeless anarchy. We need to admit when we are wrong. It can never be stated sufficiently that we should repent of past evils, and strive to be reconciled with each other.

         What if a person is unable to forgive himself or herself for previously committed reprehensible deeds? Well, we are not required to forgive ourselves. God will bring them to a state of peace and forgiveness at the appointed hour. What ultimately matters is that we accept the forgiveness of God as provided through the expiatory work of His Son Jesus Christ. What matters is that God lovingly provided us a way to escape eternal separation from Him. We should find comfort in that fact. We should find joy in that fact. We should find peace in that fact. We should repent of our sins against God and each other. We should choose to forgive others, as God has chosen to forgive us for our trespasses against Him (Matthew 6:14-15). We should aim at being reconciled with each other, as God desires to be reconciled with us. We should not permit our emotions to prevent us from moving forward with our lives. We can assist the people who are struggling with the concept of forgiveness by simply making ourselves available listeners to those afflicted and by showing gentleness. To be in a constant state of anger, bitterness, and malice is not an earmark of Christian piety. It reveals a state of poor spiritual health. Forgiveness comes from the heart (Matthew 18:35). We should be inclined to forgive because God has forgiven us. 

         Having discussed what it means to forgive, why it matters, and the negative consequences of holding grudges, it nevertheless remains crucial to summarize the discussion in a concluding format. Forgiveness springs forth from love, which constitutes the foundation of the Christian religion. Forgiveness is the very root of the gospel. It is because of God offering His Son Jesus Christ as the final propitiatory sacrifice that He is able to forgive and remove our iniquity from us. It is because of mercy that friendships can be restored. It is because of forgiveness that we are able to peacefully progress in our lives. It is because of forgiveness that the world even has a sense of tranquility. Forgiveness is a quintessential aspect of the Christian walk. It has never been morally permissible for us to display hatred and spite because it is contrary to the principles of the gospel. We know that allowing anger to brew in our hearts for prolonged periods of time will always have a negative aftermath. We should forgive, as God has forgiven us. However, this does not mean that we must tolerate or accept what other people have said or done to us. Cutting ties may certainly be a necessary safety precaution. We must repent from the heart of our sins, and offer forgiveness to those who have offended us in some way and also repented.

1 comment:

  1. I've been teaching this meaning of forgiveness for years and years! But too often I hear, "well I can forgive but I can't forget." We choose to forget when we choose to forgive.