I’ve often heard the word “forgive” thrown around among Christians, but rarely an explanation of what it means is ever provided. It’s clear that Jesus wants us to forgive, and that’s what many Christians have picked up on, but I wonder how much people really know about it themselves. It’s a very sensitive topic, as we are called to forgive everyone, even if they are not sorry or have committed the vilest of sins against us!
It’s tough! But perhaps the reason why even mentioning the word “forgiveness” can cause us such an unease, is because the question that is on many people’s minds is:
Does forgiving someone mean I’m excusing what they’ve done wrong?
To answer this question, what better scenario to refer to than Jesus’ forgiving of our sins?
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. – I Peter 3:18 NKJV
Here lies the key! Why would Jesus have to die for our sins if they were excused? What’s more, why would we have to repent of our sins if they were excused? In dying for our sins, Jesus acknowledged an immense and incredible amount of pain and evil which the sins of the world caused. Acknowledging it is the opposite of excusing it!
If we forgive someone else, we do not have to excuse their behaviour. We should never have to say, “You know what? I’ve forgiven you for murdering that person, so you have done nothing wrong in my eyes now.” No, if forgiving meant excusing sin, then evil would be permitted to flourish. Only Jesus can excuse sin, but only because He’s already died for it! That in itself is the ultimate acknowledgement of evil.
Instead, forgiveness is much more powerful. Forgiveness says, “What you did was very wrong, but instead of hating you for the rest of my life, I’m choosing to give my hatred to God. I am now choosing, with God’s strength, to love you instead.”
This is what makes forgiveness so hard – we acknowledge the sin, but choose to love the person despite that! Let’s face it, if we got angry at someone for something, but they later come to us and said “sorry”, and we could see that the person hadn’t meant to hurt us, it’d be easy to say, “I forgive you!” That’s because the person’s actions have been excused. It’s the sins which have been committed which are inexcusably wrong that are the hardest to forgive.
Forgiveness doesn’t even necessarily mean that we can’t be angry about the wrong committed. We can forgive someone and be righteously angry about it. But it’s the willing choice to love, despite the pain, sorrow, and anger, that defines forgiveness. It takes a lot of willpower and love to forgive – and God will bless those who choose to.
Sarah Tinning – Column: Living With a Positive Mindset
Sarah is a 18-year-old, living in Australia. She loves God, her family, singing, writing songs and novels, and playing guitar. She enjoys meeting up with friends, and just putting a smile on people’s faces; even better, making them laugh! She blogs about books, movies, music, and life at www.foreveraspiringwriter.wordpress.com