“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, ‘THIS IS THE COVENANT WHICH I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, DECLARES THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEARTS, AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR MIND,’ He then says, ‘AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL NO LONGER REMEMBER.’” Heb 10:14-17
Have you ever been wronged by someone? I am sure everyone has at some point. I know I have experienced it many times. And we are commanded to forgive those who wrong us, no matter what they have done. In fact, there is a very grave condition put on forgiveness. “For if you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive your offenses.“ Mat 6:14-15. Our forgiveness is based on our forgiving. Moreover, see the parable of the Unforgiving Servant.
“For this reason, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his master commanded that he be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment be made. So, the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the master of that slave felt compassion, and he released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe!’ So, his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he would pay back what was owed. So, when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their master all that had happened. “Then summoning him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he would repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:23-35.
But there is more to this issue of forgiveness. God has called us to be like Jesus. Paul said. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters;” Rom 8:29. We are to, in all things, be like Christ. And not just sometimes, but all times. When we read the Sermon on the Mount, we should not read this as a list of things we must do, but a picture of who we should be. To treat this as a list of rules is to miss the point. We need to become, through the transforming power of God, perfect, just as He is perfect. Jesus is God Incarnate. Therefore, we can extrapolate that we are to be like God, not in essence but in action. And how does God deal with us regarding our sins? He forgives and forgets.
Often, it is easy to forget wrong done to us when it is a close friend, and you understand it was unintentional. But what about that person who intentionally causes you harm? For instance, I had a boss once, the CEO of a small textile company, who appeared to find purpose and fulfillment in humiliating those who were under him. Once when we were in a meeting of directors and above, I was Director of their Computer Department, he absolutely excoriated me in front of everyone, yelled at me to get out of there, then proceeded to smile, grab a sandwich, and begin eating. The issue was not even in my department, but he chose that day to lay into me. I left that conference room so angry I was ready to resign. After the meeting was over, almost everyone in that meeting came up and apologized for him, saying they all had gone through the same thing at some point in their tenure there. They did not have good things to say about him, and it was like I was now a part of the club. I believed I had forgiven him, but I could tell every time I was around him that I really had not. I could not forget the humiliation he had piled on me. Eventually I did forgive, but it took much prayer, and it took not focusing on the wrong done, but on him as a person who needed God’s grace in his life.
Paul said the following to the Church at Corinth. “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;” 1 Cor 13:4-6. The idea is that if we do not forget what people do to us, we can easily become resentful, which Paul said here is not a characteristic of true, Godly love. One definition of forgiveness is “to cease to feel resentment against.” God has called us to love everyone, our enemies, our friends and even those we do not know personally. Jesus was the epitome of this love as he asked His Father to forgive those who put Him on the cross, both physically and also those, who by our sin, necessitated Him dying. And if we become resentful, have we really forgiven them?
I am in no way saying that this will be easy, but just because it is difficult is not to say it is impossible. Many times, our flesh gets in the way, and we would rather retaliate than forgive. But we are called to be like Jesus and love, forgive and forget. Remember, our forgiveness is linked to our forgiving. We all need to pray that God will work in us true love, which will bring about true forgiveness. He will do it, but we need to desire it. So, if you have aught against anyone, forgive and forget. It is much better than resentment and bitterness.