It is difficult to forgive.
Yet, forgiveness is at the center of the Christian life.
Why? Whether the hurt is simply my wounded pride or a significant physical trauma, it is always difficult. It does not feel fair. Must we forgive when there has been no justice? When the other person isn’t even sorry?
We forgive because of Christ
We don’t forgive because they deserve it. It’s not because they apologized. It’s not because what they did no longer matters.
We forgive others because we have been forgiven by God.
There are many Scriptures that state this: check out Ephesians 4:23, Matthew 6:15, Mark 11:25, Luke 17:4, or Matthew 18:33. The list could go on. But it boils down for a simple statement found in Colossians 3:13b: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
While it may be true that we have never hurt someone else as badly as we have been hurt, that same equation does not work with God. He has given us every good thing, yet with every sinful thought we reject him. He is the ultimate perfection, and our sin spits in his face. Even the sins where we think “it’s not that big of a deal” or we rest on the fact that “it doesn’t hurt anyone.” All sin is a big deal.
And yet… He has forgiven us.
A Scriptural picture of forgiveness
I don’t know about you, but I find examples and stories really helpful in understanding biblical truths. So let’s turn to a great example: Philemon.
In this short letter, Paul makes the case for why Philemon should forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and welcome him back. Paul centers his appeal on the loving relationship that he personally has with both men. He says that because of Philemon’s great love for Paul and the church, he should forgive this other man, with whom Paul also has a close relationship (Onesimus). Philemon is not asked to forgive Onesimus because of anything Onesmius has done, but because of the relationship that Philemon has with Paul. Because Philemon loves Paul, he is asked to forgive Onesmius.
Much like Jesus, Paul takes on the debt that Onesimus owes (v. 18). This may allow Philemon to bring Onesimus back into his household, slate wiped clean, back to the way things were before. But unless Philemon forgives him, Onesimus cannot return in the way that Paul is seeking. Paul wants Onesimus to return as a helpful man (v. 11), a dear brother (v. 16), in a way that refreshes Paul’s heart (v. 20). Unless Philemon is willing to forgive, this simply cannot happen.
Trust God’s “why”
God knows that it is difficult to forgive others. He knows our frailty, our pride, our pain. Yet He did not make a mistake when He told us plainly to forgive each other.
If we trust God for our salvation and our lives, we must trust his commands are ultimately for our good. He tells us why we should forgive others.
“Forgive others as the Lord forgave you.”
Come back next week for some helpful words on how to go about giving forgiveness in the most difficult of circumstances.