Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”.
I want to take the time to discuss about forgivingness and all it entails, the power behind it and just how much can we as people can forgive. On a daily basis we can forgive others who wronged us over various matters, as when they take their anger out on us, when they lie to us, they damage of property, steal from us, or even assault us. It comes easy to forgive when the person who wronged us steps up and apologizes, admitting their offense and tries to make amends. It also comes easy to forgive our loved ones, closest friends, neighbors or even strangers or you know the person we are forgiving is naturally a good person. However, what about forgiving over extreme offenses that tests your will to forgive. Such as when a spouse betrays you through adultery or harms you through physical or emotional abuse or just walks out on you. When a parent who is suppose to protect you, harms you or abandons you when growing up. Someone you trusted betrays you in the worst ways imaginable from harming or even molesting your child, to committing a heinous violation on you(rape, brutal assault, robbing, kidnapping ). Maybe someone murdered or raped a loved one in your family tried to murder you committing unspeakable acts upon you or a relative, closest friend etc could anybody possible forgive in these circumstances?
Also, do we have to forgive such offenses right or away, is that what God commands? There are some who will use Matthew 6:14-15 as a tool to guilt others into forgiving anyone who has wronged you no matter what the offense or else God won’t welcome us into his kingdom in heaven when we die. Because of this, many have felt the pressures of forgiving no matter how serious or horrible the offense and the guilt if they don’t or least not right away or entirely. Many people struggle with forgiving feeling is a way for salvation and God to bless them. The fact remains there are several verses in the bible that says we must forgive. Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”. Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”. Luke 17:3-4 “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
However, I don’t believe it is essential to enter heaven in the eternal afterlife, in which if we don’t forgive all the people who have ever wronged us throughout our entire life by the time we die, God will condemn us to hell. Besides, as I stated in a previous post, once we receive Jesus Christ, all are sins are forgiving and we don’t need perform certain tasks to earn his blessings but just our faith. However, I do believe forgiveness as a whole is necessary in order to follow Christ and be a glory to him. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus was teaching his followers about praying and how to ask the Lord to forgive them for their sins as they forgive others for the sins the commit upon them. He was making it a point that is quite hypocritical to plead for God’s forgiveness for their sins when they can’t forgive other’s sins and he was right. Sometimes we tend to expect to be forgiven either by God when we sin or by others when we wrong them, but as soon other people wrong us, we have a hard to time returning the gesture even if offenses committed are the same ones we committed to them. For example, when someone betrays their spouse through adultery or a friend by stabbing them in the back, then they apologize and beg forgiveness, but the shoe becomes on the other foot, and that person is on the receiving end of that same betrayal, he/she has a harder time forgiving because it now happened to them.
In this way, we become hypocrites, since how can we beg others or the Lord to forgiven our sins or offenses and then can’t bestow others the same forgiveness we desire. Forgiveness is not always an easy task, it can become harder depending on how serious the offense. We are imperfect human beings so it’s natural when we are betrayed or horribly wronged we feel react in anger, rage, hostility and the need to lash out and even hurt them the way they hurt us although the bible speaks against seeking vengeance, it is still an natural impulse to do we still should strive to retrain from this. Also sometimes we reasons we don’t forgive is because of a selfish desire lord it over the person who wronged us all the misdeeds the committed against us punish them and to play the victim feeding on their guilt. Others confuse forgiveness as excusing the wrongs and letting the offender off the hook therefore forgiveness is seen as a weakness. Forgiveness does require letting go of the anger, and the need to punish and hold a grudge against others but does not mean excusing or condoning the offense but no longer holding others actions over them and it takes a lot of strength and strong will power to do. Still, forgiveness is not something we can demand or force others to do, or force ourselves to do like is a simple chore. Depending on how extreme the offense is, sometimes forgiveness may take time for person to do in which they need to heal from the pain and anguish they are feeling first before they can let themselves forgive an offense. It may take months for some it may event take years to completely forgive someone but is possible to forgive even the most unforgivable act.
Yet some well-meaning Christians will use bible verses to pressure or guilt someone forgiving or else God will reject them. I’ve read articles in which pastors and parishioners alike insists forgiveness is demanded by God and some insist we should forgive right away or we as Christians are not welcomed in the kingdom of heaven, or we are hard-hearted people. I don’t agree these types of methods to which many people will put pressure on themselves out of guilt and shame to forgive in order to be “good Christian person” fearing they God will reject or that they are hypocrites who are dishonoring the Lord. The problem is forgiveness doesn’t come from their hearts in these situations, instead it is out of fear not pleasing God and not being true believer. I believe even as followers of Christ, we are still only human and should be allowed with all the human emotions that are reasonable. Sometimes it is best to let others or let ourselves feel anger, hurt, betrayal, rage whenever we a terrible wrong as been committed against us rather than repress them.
However, in time as we get these feelings out of our system, we should strive to heal rather than hold a grudge indefinitely that poisons our hearts. Also, we should show mercy, patience and understanding to others who show such anger when they have been done a terrible offense and not yet ready to let that anger go rather than patronizingly tell them to just forgive the offense and move on, especially if we can’t possibly comprehend what they are going through or experience the same offense ourselves. We should also show patience to ourselves if we can’t forgive right away, our angry feelings are normal and justified at the moment may pass in time through healing relying on God’s help. Many has been said about forgiving those who apologize and repent and deserve our forgiveness but what about those who don’t repent, are not remorseful and seem undeserving. I recall watching a program on the Investigative Discovery channel about a Christian man who murdered his wife, although he claimed she shot her by accident it was later learned he was having affair with another woman during their courtship and continued it after their marriage. He may have only married his wife because of the pressures from his family rather than out of love and may have murdered her in order to be with is mistress. I read on forum from other Christians discussing the events saying how they forgive him because he deserves forgiveness even judging others who don’t.
Although, I think it was admirably that they forgive this man’s sins, I couldn’t help wonder why they actually felt he deserved forgiveness or why they believed it was their place to forgive since they didn’t know him and he crimes wasn’t against them or their loved ones. Thinking about this again I started to wonder whether is forgiving always about whether the person is deserving of it. What can make forgiveness so amazing sometimes is when it is giving to people who don’t deserve it. I have read cases of people forgiving people who raped them, murdered or accidentally killed their loved ones, burglarized their homes, been abused by a family member or spouse, not because they deserved it but to let get of their pain and bitterness which would enable them to move on. Also, sometimes they actually feel pity for the offenders who suffered horrible pain and tragedy in their own lives that led them to take the direction their lives that caused them to commit such heinous acts. The bottom line is its okay to sometimes forgive the undeserving and unrepentant and to feel sympathy for their sad and sinful lives and even pray for them. That’s not an easy task to do and I personally wouldn’t condemn anyone who couldn’t do that or not for a long time and it is the trulest amazing power of forgiveness.
Jesus himself begged God to forgive those who rebuked them when he was on the cross and God blessed and forgave our sins even though it wasn’t deserved but was his amazing gift to us. Last point about forgiveness is that it isn’t the same as forgetting. Just because you chose to forgive an offense doesn’t mean you just forget the offense nor does it mean there isn’t any consequences for the offender. For example if a person damages someone’s property, he/she may forgive the offense but still hold that person accountable to pay for the damages. If someone commits a crime against another, the victim may forgive the offender but still hold him/her accountable under the law and expect fair justice. Another point is forgiving someone doesn’t mean we just trust the offender again. A trust can be broken when there is betrayal like when a spouse commits adultery or family member steals from another or there is constant dishonesty. However, trust can be regained but it has to be earned in time through repentance, healing and actions while turning to God for strength.
Through our trust in the Lord, the power of forgiveness can be possible even for the most unforgivable sins and showing the ability to show mercy on others even on the undeserving can liberate us from pain and bitterness and takes true strength in ways we didn’t know possible.