When someone has slapped you down repeatedly, even when you didn’t realize, for years, you were being denigrated, how do you forgive? The only way is to recognize how God has forgiven us. Each of us creatures have a sprinkling of human characteristics which are less than righteous such as tempers, sassiness, unpure thoughts, desire for retaliation, selfishness, egotism, among others. These peculiarities keep us from achieving forgiveness of others which would ultimately bring freedom to ourselves.
When we say the heady, “If so-and-so can go to law school, then I can too!” it is not the same as saying, “If God can forgive a terrible sinner, then I can too.” We are NOT God. But, if we are Christians, the Spirit of God does dwell within us, and we are capable of far more than we can imagine. God does command us to forgive 70 times 7, which is usually interpreted as meaning endlessly. It goes along with the turn-the-other-cheek philosophy also taught in scripture (Matt. 5:39). We don’t need to punish the offending person as God has promised, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord.” Christ followers are forgiven, so forgiven people should be forgiving people.
I was disappointed and hurt by a relative until we realized she had Alzheimer’s. It was very easy to forgive then and to just love her. Pity is a part of the emotional side of forgiveness. It also is easy, though painful, to forgive when you watch someone fall into sin and see their character sucked out of them until they become a sham of their former self. Grace is behavioral from the spiritual side of forgiveness. Grace sneaks in as a gift and is incomprehensible to us until we come to recognize the grace of God in our own lives. Grace permeates our soul and gradually teaches us how to react.
Do you have a forgiveness story?