Every human being knows what it means to be hurt and how difficult it seems to let go. Despite this reality, the scriptures instruct believers to forgive and let go of all hurts. In this article, I seek to explore what forgiveness truly means and how to go about it.
The world we live in is full of man’s wickedness toward one another. In many circles, forgiveness is not an option. Deciding to extend kindness towards people that offend you is seen as a sign of weakness.
By the world’s standards, strength is revealed in your ability to plot evil against those who have stepped on your toes, and choosing not to forgive is considered a good virtue.
Yes, this is the world we live in! A world that has its sense of moral obligations skewed by the selfish interests of its inhabitants. It’s from this system that the Christian has been called out and this implies that he can no longer adopt the worldview that the world espouses. Rather, he is instructed and obligated to live his life in service to God. This is seen in Paul’s admonition to the Romans (Rom 12:1-2).
When it comes to handling relationships, the scriptures dictate a worldview for the believer. In the case of offences, the Bible instructs the believer to forgive.
Scriptures highlight the “WHY” of forgiveness in relationships. When the “WHY” is properly understood, the Christian finds it easy to forgive. Paul, in Eph 4:32, instructs the Ephesian believers to forgive one another because of the forgiveness that God offers us in Christ. Forgiveness, as a part of Christian ethics, is hinged not on the magnitude or the peculiarity of the offence but on the divine grace that every believer enjoys.
This comparison gets rid of our self-centred thinking in which unforgiveness thrives. Many times, the reason why we fail to forgive is that we are self-centred. Our minds have been trained to evaluate the actions and inactions of others only in the light of ourselves—what we seek to gain or lose therein. This is not entirely wrong, but in some cases, it could be.
We have been instructed to forgive not because we’re superhumans or because we don’t get hurt. Rather, forgiving one another is seen in the light of God’s love towards us. The Bible clearly states that we were children of wrath, but God had mercy on us, and now we’re saved by grace, and not by our works. It means that our works couldn’t earn us the pardon we needed. Instead, divine grace did.
Therefore, in Eph 4:32 and Col 3:13, we see that Paul attaches the motive for forgiveness to the forgiveness we received in Christ which is not of works, but grace. Since we’re forgiven not because of what we did—good or bad— or the magnitude or peculiarities of our sins, but because of divine grace, we’re expected as Christians to forgive one another. Therefore, Christian forgiveness is an expression of gratitude for the pardon that we have received through Christ.
This perspective gets a hold of selfishness in our hearts at its very roots. We no longer esteem one another based on our skewed sense of love but on God’s standard. This is why Paul says we should be followers and imitators of God as dear children. He also went further to admonish us to walk in love as Christ did; this is the foundation for forgiveness for Christians.
Consider the story Jesus told in Matthew 18:21-35. The lesson of the story is highlighted in vs 32-33. The Lord of the servant expected the servant to forgive his fellow servant because he forgave him. God requires us to forgive because he forgives, and he does so freely. If a perfect God wouldn’t expect us—imperfect beings—to be without fault, how much more us? Likewise,
in relationships, imperfect men shouldn’t expect perfection from other imperfect men. I leave you with this axiom rooted in scripture, “Men ought ALWAYS to forgive”.
But does the Bible teach us to forgive and forget? Should Christians ask God to erase memories of past hurt? This and more would be looked into in the second part of this write-up.