I normally don’t have any problem forgiving someone. I don’t hold grudges-it isn’t worth the effort or the continued discomfort, and I know that my Lord has told me to forgive. It’s really not difficult for me to just forget what someone has done or said and go on my way.
However, there’s been one issue sticking in my mind and heart: one wrong perpetrated ten years ago on someone who was very close to me, and one for which I could not forgive. The knowledge of the episode was there on the backburner of my soul all the time, and sometimes flaming into stark relief in my consciousness, causing anger. I knew it was likely to stay there for the rest of my life. I saw no way that I could pray that prayer of forgiveness for those responsible.
I didn’t think I needed to forgive. Unlike those who nailed my Saviour to the cross, they knew what they were doing, I thought, and they hadn’t even made the effort to confess or apologize. What they had done was so terrible, and they were so unrepentant and calloused, that I didn’t think I had any obligation to forgive them. I was wrong.
One day, a day on which I was made painfully aware of my own guilt and imperfection, a light came on in my mind: I am also guilty. I’m guilty of doing and saying things I shouldn’t have done or said, and which I knew at the time were wrong. I too have offended my God.
Can I be forgiven? Does the sacrifice of Christ apply to me? Charles Wesley asked this question in a hymn:
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
In the eyes of the holy God who made me, sin is sin. I am imperfect, and unable to enter the presense of a perfect God-ever-on my own merit. I saw as I had seen in stark terms before that I fall far short of His glory and perfection. I do not match up to the standard I would need to display if I wanted to earn my way into heaven. The only way I am ever going to be forgiven by Him, after applying the sacrice of Jesus to myself, is if I also forgive:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).
The issue is settled. I have no choice but to forgive. Perhaps I don’t need to forget what has happened: I can’t. But I must regard those who are guilty in my eyes as being as redeemable and as important to God as I am, or I am living in pride, and lost.