Forgiveness is a central theme in the Bible. God readily forgives our transgressions. But more important, he expects us to forgive who have sinned against us.
By nature, God of the Bible is a forgiving God. Forgiving others is the most God-like quality in us. If in your heart, you desire to be like Jesus Christ, one must have the quality of forgiveness in our being. Forgiveness is a wonderful quality. It is a pledge and a promise.
It is a quality of unearned love; in spite of what you have done, there is no hatred, no anger, no desire for vengeance and no retaliation. “I will completely overlook the transgression you committed against me and do not regard you guilty nor feel self-pity that I have been offended. I completely pass over the offence and extend my love to you.” This is how God deals with us and how one must deal with others.
But this easier said than done. Most of us find it difficult to rid ourselves of bitterness, anger and grievances against others. Misunderstanding, conflicts, and slights (imagined or real) happen in all our lives. Here is where the chance to forgive comes into play.
To do good, bless, love and pray for a person, who has hurt us is very difficult. To forgive someone who deserves punishment and censure go against our very human nature. This is a hurdle faced by all Christians to clear.
But forgiveness is at the heart of the teachings of Christ. It is not only a teaching but also an order. In the prayer given by Christ called as the Lord’s Prayer (Mathew 6:12, Luke 11), Jesus requests the following: please forgive our sins as we ourselves have forgiven those who sinned against us.
Jesus also says that if you forgive others, God will forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, God will also not forgive you.
Here comes the relevance of the Parable of the unforgiving servant as recounted by Jesus. In this story, a certain king who is settling his accounts finds a servant owing him 10,000 talents. (This amounts to $15.8 million today). In the normal course, the servant may be cast into a life of slavery. But hearing the entreaty of the servant, the king was moved with compassion, and he forgave the complete debt.
Now this servant found that another servant owed him 100 Denari or $15. This small debtor begged for mercy, but the first servant had him jailed till his debt was paid. The King was informed about this event, and he condemns the unforgiving servant to jail.
The moral of the parable is this: we owe an enormous, unpayable debt to God, who forgives us for the same. But we, in turn, are not ready to forgive our fellow human beings for their small debts or transgressions. We should appreciate the fact that we are forgiven for our many sins and forgive others. If we cannot forgive, it is also justified that God will not forgive us.
So how many times should one forgive? In Mathew 18: 21-22, Peter asks Jesus how many times one must forgive one’s offender: is it seven times? Jesus replies that one must forgive a seven and seventy times. Jesus is merely implying that one cannot count the number of times to forgive a brother.
If someone wrongs us and asks us for forgiveness, we must be ready to forgive. Even if he does not ask for forgiveness, as Christians, we are bound to forgive. After all, God gives us the grace we don’t deserve. He delights in granting mercy, by overlooking our sins. He is ever ready to restore us to his favour.
God became human: of flesh and blood in the form of Jesus. Through him, Jesus defeated death and the devil. God through Jesus was able to go through whatever humans go through like, temptations offered by the devil, so he was able to help those who are tempted. By his life, he demonstrated the meaning of love and forgiveness. One of his last words was addressed to God, asking him to pardon his enemies as they did not know what they were doing.
Forgiveness and reconciliations are the crucial aspects of the Gospel. We face eternal separation from God if we don’t forgive the sins of others. Our sins are so great that we cannot possibly repay them. But God loved us so much that he sent his son to the world, so that by the shedding of his blood, our sins are forgiven. The forgiveness of our sins is a gift we receive from the Cross.
When someone wrongs us, the Devil places a barrier between us and that person: a block which does not allow us to love her/him as Jesus commanded. Jesus died to bring down barriers between God and us because of our sins; so he wants us to get rid of the blocks between us and our fellow beings due to enmity.
In Mathew 5:, 23-24, Jesus states that if you are bringing gifts to God at the altar and at the same time are angry with a brother, you must first return to your brother and be reconciled with him and only then offer your gift at the altar.
To forgive others, one must realize that one is a bigger sinner than a brother: Jesus asks why one is keen to identify the speck in another person’s eyes and fail to recognize the log in yours.
Also, one must learn to forgive oneself. In some cases, one must stop blaming oneself and realize that God has forgiven us when we truly repent.
In order to be forgiven, we must acknowledge that we are sinners, make a confession of our having sinned and believe that we will receive forgiveness because of the Cross. There is no forgiveness for sins without the bloodshed by Christ on the cross.
God desires that we believe Christ died for our sins, and we have a new life in him. He chooses to forget our sins and wants to forgive us for his own sake.