The idea and action of forgiveness is widely forgotten in our lives today. Perhaps it is part of the culture we live in, and the sense of entitlement we have in many things, but forgiveness is one of the most key topics in my life I’d want to share. Forgiveness is not a one time choice or action, it is a consistent choice to see past the negatives and view the person as Christ views them.
Withholding forgiveness is an extremely dangerous choice with eternal repercussions. Un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the person that wronged you to get sick. More often than not, feeling/being wronged is a one way street. I know in my life, there are many instances where I was allowing myself to take up an offense and let it dictate my life. Eventually, I began to notice a trend: my life was getting more frustrating and difficult, not the person who wronged me. I know there are many situations where someone is in the wrong, knows it and chooses not to confront it. However, many times it is the person who was wronged that is experiencing changes in mood and quality of life.
There are a few things that happen when we choose to withhold forgiveness from a person. First, we are giving control over ourselves to someone/something else. Allowing a person or situation to consume our thoughts and letting it dictate our actions is not empowering. Giving this up leads to something else taking control, which allows sin to enter in. It then becomes a wedge in between us and God. Secondly, we are making ourselves sick and acting selfishly. Withholding forgiveness is a selfish act, plain and simple. Yes, each one of us has endured a situation where, in our human standards, the other person does not deserve forgiveness. But, do we deserve forgiveness for things we have done to others? To God? If you play the game of giving people what they deserve, you are expressing a desire to have it portrayed in your life. This is called “sowing and reaping”. You withhold forgiveness and harbor bitterness, people will do the exact some to you when they feel wronged by you. Empathy is key in forgiveness, not only for the other person, but for Jesus. Third, we are saying what Jesus endured on the Cross was not good enough or big enough for us. You may not agree, but think about it. If someone steals from me and I decide this particular offense is too big to forgive, what does that say about what Jesus did on that day? I know of many terrible situations where people have endured junk, the worst circumstances you could possibly think of. But isn’t Jesus bigger than that? Did He not endure and die for ALL sins? And He did it all at once, in one magnificent act. The most epic act of forgiveness ever is what Jesus did for each individual; past, present and future. If I cannot find it in my heart to forgive someone, I minimize what Jesus endured for me, and for the person who offended me.
Now, I have had time to reflect and think about the situations in my life where I felt like I could not forgive a person. I ask myself this question: “Who am I to not forgive?” Jesus did not just die for the righteous, He died for all, including the unrighteous. Who am I not to forgive someone Jesus was beaten to death for, and whom He had forgiven while enduring the pain and shame of the Cross? Who am I to do that? Who am I to be selfish and withhold forgiveness? Who am I to minimize Jesus’ work on the cross.
I have to choose daily to not live in that lifestyle. My Jesus is bigger than any offense, because He endured the worst offenses for every single person.
Not forgiving someone eliminates any opportunity for restoration and reconciliation, which is the ministry given to us (1 Cor. 6). Do we care enough about the salvation and life of God’s creation to forgive them? Forgiveness is more about the other person than it is about you. Often times we make forgiveness all about us instead of having it done for the other side as well. There is nothing more humbling than laying down your pride and selfishness for another human, which comes out during the act of forgiveness. I choose to walk in forgiveness because the other person matters and I do not want to allow a wall to be present between me and my relationship with Christ. He paid too high of a price for me to be selfish.