We live in a broken world. Horrible things happen on a regular basis, and I’m certain that some of those things have happened to you.
Yet God calls us to forgive. Repeatedly in Scripture, God calls Christians to forgive others when they hurt us – even if they do not ask for forgiveness.
Simply put, we are called to forgive others because God himself has forgiven us. He is the definition of perfection and created all things – including us. We may not feel like our sin is particularly grievous (not compared to others!) But the reality is that our sin brings about a debt that we could never repay. Jesus had to pay it for us. God himself paid our debt and forgave us.
Consider the parable told in Matthew 18:21-35. We can all agree that it is wrong for the servant who is forgiven of a massive debt or then turn around and refuse to forgive a fellow servant of a much smaller debt.
But sometimes, the debt that we are called to forgive is a horrible evil. Would God call us to forgive the thief who robs us? What about our adulterous spouse? And of course, people commit much deeper evils against each other.
There are two other reasons why I believe that God wants us to forgive others, even of deep and horrible acts of evil. They are not stated explicitly in Scripture, but they certainly follow biblical principles.
I mentioned above that we often feel like our sin is not particularly grievous. That forgiveness isn’t really a big deal. But this is wrong. When we forgive others of horrible things done to us, this can help to shift our perspective with God to more rightly understand that our sin is a big deal. Our sin really does matter to God. His forgiveness of us is not a small or light thing.
May I offer one other reason? Forgiveness is not for the other person. When we refuse to forgive someone, the bitterness and hardness of heart does not infect their soul – it infects ours. Forgiveness is the cure to our bitterness. Forgiveness softens our hearts. Simply put, we feel better when we release the hurt and blame and forgive the other person.