We can never talk enough about forgiveness or be too thankful for it. We need also to be reminded constantly what it cost the Saviour—His death on the Cross—to make forgiveness possible. Actually, we need forgiveness more than we need breathe. Forgiveness makes the difference between a lost and a saved eternity.
To be forgiven by God is to experience one of His greatest favors. Forgiveness triggers a wonderful liberation from a defeated past and the beginning of a new start in life. Forgiveness will greatly enhance the ecstasies of heaven. If feelings of guilt were to be carried through a long eternity, it would greatly dampen the joys of the redeemed. But no! Forgiveness crosses out the past, buries it forever in God’s forgetfulness (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 10:17).
From Scripture we know that forgiveness is not a way, it is the way. It is the only way for the Lord or for us to deal with a sinful past. Nowhere in Scripture does the Lord give us reason for believing that He can reverse history. When a thing is done it is done. The old sage was right: “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, moves on”. No tears can erase history or change the writing. Only forgiveness can deal effectively with this record.
Forgiveness is treating the wrongdoer is if he had never committed the wrong. It is the eradication of the red ink from the record. This is the way God’s forgiveness operates toward us; and it is the way He wants ours to work toward others. No grudges!
In Scripture we find that in many cases God sets a precedent by His actions. His forgiveness is one of these. He forgives and therefore requires us to forgive. His way of action becomes a pattern for us. Paul admonished his converts to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
The Lord wants us to be lavish in our forgiveness of others. On one occasion Peter wanted to know if he should forgive his brother “till seven times”. And Jesus answered him, not “until seven times: but, until seventy times seven”. Unlimited forgiveness is His criterion (Matthew 18:21-23).
When we consider how trivial is the total of wrongs done against us compared to the wrongs we have done against the Lord, it becomes clear that He has set the great example in the generosity of His forgiveness. We put ourselves in a most awkward position when we pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”, and yet refuse to exercise this grace.
Following Peter’s question, in the parable of the unmerciful servant, our Lord had some serious things to say about an unforgiving heart (Matthew 18:23-35). It is a frightening thing to hear anyone say, “I can never forgive that person!”
We all know that forgiveness brings relief to the soul and heart, both when we forgive and when we are forgiven. It is grievous to live in a state of constant condemnation of ourselves or of others, but it is glorious to live in a state of constant liberation.
Researchers in mental studies are finding that grudges, animosities and jealousies eat into our emotional system. We may not be aware of the damage that is being done by these unhealthy emotions and attitudes, but it is now known that revenge, vindictiveness and an unforgiving spirit affect the heart, indeed the whole vascular and nervous systems. If persisted in, they are apt to make us ill.
Forgiveness liberates the human heart from the weight of this load. It calms the nervous system and lessens the blood pressure. Forgiveness is held up to us by God as the royal road for us to travel. The Gospel of Christ is most becoming to our human nature.
Forgiveness is the outworking of Christian love. And Christian love is important. In his letter of the Christians at Corinth (I Corinthians 13), Paul told them in substance that if they had love they had everything, but if they did not have love they had nothing. This emphasizes the need for a right state of heart.
Forgiving is co-operating with God in the promotion of good will in His kingdom. It follows, then, that once His love becomes ingrained in our hearts, the letter of the law becomes that much less necessary—less necessary because we then have implanted within us the same force which motivates the Lord in the administration of His vast kingdom.
Forgiveness can be a debt we owe to others. Forgiveness is one of the ways we can keep in tune with the Lord in His great redemptive program. Forgiveness is the great liberation God extends to all who commit their ways to Christ. Forgiving others liberates our own hearts from enslaving emotions and attitudes.
Forgiving others is one of the good things we do for ourselves. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).