In the past, I have been wronged by many people have never asked for forgiveness from me. As I think of my own story, I am reminded that everyone has been wronged, offended, and sinned against at some point. The question for you and I is different than the rest of the world because we are Christians. So we must ask; How are we as Christians to respond when such offenses occur? According to the Bible, we are to forgive all offenses. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 proclaims, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
The key in both Scriptures is that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us. So, what is the reason that we forgive? Why do we forgive if people don't care if we forgive anyway? I think there are two answers.
1. Because we have been forgiven! Those who are not Christians, however, have not been forgiven by God and have neither the power nor the desire to forgive other people. Often times, it is simply the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sin so without the Holy Spirit, a person my be totally blind to their wrongs.
2. Forgiving others frees us, not just them. If we are honest, our lack of forgiveness towards others has us absolutely enslaved to the hurts that have been done to us. We can't stop thinking about what has been done to us, we demand that we get justice for the hurt people have caused us. We wish the worse against the people who hurt us. And, all of that thinking keeps us a slave to our hurts and keeps us in bondage to our past.
Forgiveness would be simple if we only had to grant it to those who come asking for it and have repented. The Bible tells us that we are to forgive, without condition, those who sin against us. That goes for those who want our forgiveness and those who don't care if we forgive them. Refusing to truly forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger, none of which are the beautiful traits of a true Christian. Jesus teaches us that, we are to ask God to forgive us our sins, just as we forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:12). Jesus also said in Matthew 6:14-15,“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.” All this is saying that when you and I refuse to forgive others, it is a good eye opener that we are not aware of the depths of Gods forgiveness towards us.
When you and I can consider the extent to which God forgives all our sins, we realize that we do not have the right to withhold grace and forgiveness from others. We have sinned against God infinitely more than any person can sin against us. And I say that as one who has been been horribly sinned against by others. If God forgives us of so much, how can we refuse to forgive others of so little?
The big idea that I can't get away from is that in order to truly be free from our past hurts, we have to forgive others. God always commands us to do something because it is in our best interest to be obedient. God doesn't want us to forgive others for the sake of others. That may be a benefit, but not the main purpose. God simply wants us to forgive others because it is going to be most freeing for us. We are his children and he delights in freeing us from our bondage.