We need to forgive because there are no unforgiving people in the Kingdom of God. Jesus told us: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). If we are not ready to forgive others, how would we dare to ask God to forgive us?
People who realize their own sin and their own need for forgiveness, should be ready to extend forgiveness to others.
Forgiving others is especially difficult if the other is not asking for forgiveness or even acknowledging he was in the wrong. Because of the depth of our sin nature, we often are much better in seeing others’ sins than our own. We are really good in justifying ourselves. If others do not see the need to be forgiven, it is good to realize there are probably situations that we do not realize we need forgiveness ourselves.
The Bible calls us to forgive, and there seem to be no exceptions to this command. What does ‘forgive’ mean? Forgiveness is a decision of the will to not hold a wrong that somebody did to you against him. It opens the way to restoration of the relationship. It also frees you from bitterness in your own heart that can ruin your life.
But it is important to understand that there are some limitations to what forgiveness means.
- We can only extend forgiveness for the wrong done towards us. We cannot forgive people for what they did to others or to God.
- Forgiving someone does not mean that the relationship is restored. If the other party has acknowledged his sin and asked for forgiveness this is a starting point for restoring the relationship, but it will take time. Sometimes it might even be impossible.
- Forgiving someone does not mean that the trust is restored. If you have forgiven someone for stealing from you, it is not wrong to only start trusting him again with your money after a long period in which he has proven himself trustworthy.
- Forgiving someone does not mean that God has forgiven him. Paul writes: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19).
Know the joy of forgiveness. It will give you a tender heart towards others, and it will prepare you for the joy of continually receiving God’s forgiveness for you daily sins. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).