Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Understanding Biblical Forgiveness

          What are we to do when we experience persistent resentment toward others who have 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. Some incidents are entirely accidental, whereas others are provoked intentionally. But what does it mean to offer forgiveness? Is it a necessary option? If forgiveness is possible, then it is important that we be reconciled with our family, friends, and even neighbors. Are we in an unwarranted way holding past grievances committed against us? Have we ourselves offended others?

          The biblical 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 and kindness. It is not deserved. Forgiveness is an act of the will and done deliberately (Matthew 18:21-22). Forgiveness of another person 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). Contempt and hostility are contrary to the ways of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not entail 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 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 harm the people around us. It is wrong to not strive to live peacefully with other people (Ephesians 4:31-32; Hebrews 12:14-15). In fact, unchecked anger in and of itself is a defilement of our souls. A contentious relationship cannot successfully thrive because it closes the gates of compromise. It closes off any influx of human reason. Consequently, situations are rendered unworkable. Malice and strife can only hinder one from listening. An unforgiving heart will only hold on to its own subjective perception of reality. It is for this reason that opposing sides of an argument misrepresent each other. At this moment, we have investigated the practical side of revealing clemency to the people who have repented of any possible wrongdoings against us. Forgiveness can be a simple solution with profound reverberations for the better.

          What if a man is unable to forgive himself for previously committed reprehensible deeds? We are not required to forgive ourselves. God will bring us 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 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 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. Forgiveness comes from the heart (Matthew 18:35). We should be inclined to forgive because God Himself has forgiven us. He will withhold mercy from people at the Final Judgement who did not themselves show mercy to others in this life.

          Forgiveness springs forth from love, which constitutes the foundation of Christianity. Forgiveness is the very root of the gospel. It is because Jesus Christ made the final propitiatory sacrifice on the cross that God is able to forgive and remove our sin from us. It is because of mercy that friendships can be restored. It is because of forgiveness that we are able to peacefully move on in our lives. It is because of forgiveness that the world even has a sense of tranquility. Hatred is contrary to the principles of the gospel. If left unchecked, anger ruins our sanity. 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.