In the fleshly realm, forgiveness represents everything humanity hates.
In a song about forgiving a cheating, lying wife, Lyle Lovett sings, “God does. But I don’t. God will, but I won’t. And that’s the difference between God and me.”
Forgiveness to some means surrender and endorsement. We won’t forgive until they’ve suffered sufficiently to appease our anger. But emotions are the cruelest creatures on earth and they can’t be trusted.
In truth, when we forgive, we’re not condoning the wrong or sin. In no way are we letting the sinner escape consequences or judgment. And it doesn’t mean we’re spineless or weak. Instead, forgiveness exhibits profound courage and strength.
Forgiveness is ultimately about the bigger picture of God’s plan for redemption. Will we have revenge or heaven in mind? In fact, a failure to forgive dooms our soul (Matthew 6:14-15).
When we put souls above vengeance, we’ve opened the door to spiritual peace. God “delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18, NKJV) and he’s “ready to pardon…and is slow to anger” (Nehemiah 9:17). He can even cleanse the vilest of sins (1 John 1:9; Isaiah 1:18).
People told Jesus about murdered Jews and Jesus replied, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). With crime, violence, accidents and disasters (Luke 13:4), all we can do is to ensure that we’re ready to meet judgment.
Repentance is essential to salvation (2 Peter 3:9; Luke 17:3-4). Yet, Jesus asked God to forgive the sins of his murderers without repentance (Luke 23:34) just a few chapters later. And Stephen certainly thought it could happen (Acts 7:60).
Must we wait for repentance before we forgive someone of a wrong or sin? People say that God can’t forgive sins without repentance therefore we can’t do so.
A more precise statement would be that he can and has but we can’t expect it to happen to us. We must be certain of our soul’s condition and repent. The stakes are too high (Matthew 25:46).
Forgiveness is also something we do for ourselves. Burrowing into a wrong done against us can be destructive. For our own mental health, we must let things go and let it slip away from our lives.
If we do so and no longer hold it against someone and relive it every time we see them, how is that different from forgiveness. We must protect our own well-being and have peace in our hearts.
What does it mean to forgive another person? In the absence of repentance, how can we not forgive and let things go so that it no longer corrodes our hearts? We need to have these parameters and definitions clear in our minds.
The world is a cruel, heartless place and we must have faith and inner peace to endure the hardships (Hebrews 11:6; Psalm 23). Allowing a villain to reside in our minds is counterproductive to our Christian walk. We must let things go or be consumed by them.