When I thought about it, I realised that the word “forgive” has much of the abstract difficulty to explain as the word “love”. So I decided to investigate. One of the Oxford dictionaries explains it like this: “to stop feeling angry with somebody who has done something to harm, annoy or upset you.” Simply controlling your emotions then…
The Afrikaans dictionary says: “nie toereken nie; oor die hoof sien; uitwis (sonde)”. So here, the culpable person (the one who deserves blame) is exonerated, set free from his/her accountability…
Looking at it this way, it may not always be such an easy thing to do! When we have been wronged or hurt, or even when someone we love has been wronged or hurt, our natural reaction is to want retribution.
According to the Tyndale Bible Dictionary, forgiveness is a uniquely Christian doctrine. We forgive because God forgives us.
When we consider God’s example in dealing with the wayward nation of Israel in the Old Testament, His forgiveness meant to let go of the transgressions, to remove it – to wipe it away. He never thought on it again, He did not remember it, He put it out of sight.
“The past acts and deeds of sin are not denied, but there is no longer any bondage. Forgiveness brings freedom.”
Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18:21-35) puts into perspective how much we have been forgiven, in comparison to the little we need to forgive others. The first servant owed what could be considered MILLIONS of rands to the king, while the second servant owed the first a mere couple of rand…
Some things are arguably easier to forgive than others. Some things may be more easily considered “a mere couple of rands”. I say this with great caution, being aware of how many terrible things are being perpetrated against people, but even the worst of offenses should still be considered small in relation to the fact that Jesus had to offer His completely sinless life as restitution to save ours – for ETERNITY!
If an eternal perspective doesn’t make forgiveness easier, consider the following, more immediate, benefits:
- It sets YOU free
- It sets the offender free (also for God to deal with him/her)
- It prevents the enemy from getting a destructive hold on your life
- It pleases the Father!
Considering everything else, the last reason would be my greatest motivation.
Yes, our emotions often take longer to catch up with our decision, but even in that we can trust God to help us. Once we decide to forgive, we must resist the urge to dwell on the incident, the wrong that was committed. We must make a conscious effort to put it behind us. We learn, we gain wisdom, but we must continue to love.
Jesus ends this parable with a stern warning – God considers this an important matter!
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (verse 35)
Let’s go back to Matt 18:18. “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Can we read this in relation to forgiveness? To forgive someone is to release (loose) them of their culpability. Is that not what love does? Is that not the way of humility?
In both these instances, Jesus is specifically speaking of our responsibility towards our fellow Christians. Why? Because in the way we act towards each other, the world should see the love of Jesus being portrayed in our lives.
Our interaction with each other should be a testimony to our being one body, connected to the head, who is Jesus Christ.
Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we hurt each other. None of us are immune to our sinful nature and our human fallibility. So, let’s also be quick to forgive.
by Lise Oosthuizen