C. S. Lewis once said, "We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it." I think we can all give a hearty "Amen" to that. We love the thought of forgiveness, but for some reason, it is just so difficult. And yet the Scriptures are littered with commands to forgive. Here are just two:
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 5:32).
"Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Col. 3:13).
And yet we still struggle. It is difficult. And sometimes, we simply don't feel like it. And then there are other times that we say we forgive, yet don't. We can learn a lot about forgiveness by identifying what is is not. For instance . . .
- You have not forgiven if you continually treat the other person differently than others.
- You have not forgiven if you continually bring up the past.
- You have not forgiven if you resent them in your heart.
- You have not forgiven if you harbor anger towards them.
- You have not forgiven if you go out of your way to avoid them.
I'm sure there are many other examples of what forgiveness "is not." So what is it? Forgiveness is taking what someone has done to you and leaving it at the foot of the cross, never to deal with it again. It means that you treat that person the way Jesus treats you.
Peter once asked Jesus that question we have thought before. How many times does my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him . . . up to seven times? You know the answer. Seventy times seven. Meaning, limitless.
The forgiveness we offer to others is closely attached to the fact that we realize we have been forgiven by Christ. And we need to continually remember:
You Will Never Be More Like God Than When You Forgive Like Christ!
And so let go. Forgive. Move on. I guarantee you that the sins you have committed before a Holy God are so much more offensive than anything someone has done to you. And yet, God demonstrates the heart of forgiveness by completely wiping the slate through your faith in Jesus Christ. Follow that pattern of forgiveness today.