Forgiveness is an interesting thing. Somewhere along the way we have been told the lie that if we forgive someone, they will be off the hook. We don’t want them to get away with whatever injustice they caused us, so we harbor bitterness and resentment in an effort to keep their actions from being justified. I had a real life experience with this just after college. I had every reason to be angry and hurt because of decisions that my mother made early in my life. When faced with the choice to forgive and reestablish a relationship with her, I really struggled with the implications of forgiveness. I did not want her decisions to be justified! I decided to give it a try and called her up to ask for her forgiveness for harboring bitterness against her for so many years. The result: freedom! Freedom for me, for her, and a restored relationship.
Jesus’ teaching on the subject of forgiveness is pretty radical. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:14-15) This statement must have rocked the disciples. There was not such teaching in the Old Testament. This was a totally new perspective, and the condition of forgiving others had direct impact on one’s own forgiveness from God the Father. Our responsibility is to forgive, and the fruit of it is freedom. Jesus taught us what true forgiveness looks like when one of his last statements on the cross was, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34) May we follow the example of Jesus and experience the freedom that comes through forgiving others.
Lie: If I forgive this person they are off the hook
Truth: Forgiveness leads to freedom for oneself and others
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”