What is forgiveness?
Does forgiveness justify the behavior of someone who has horribly wronged us? Is my forgiveness dependent on the offender’s repentance? What if the one with whom I am upset with does not deserve my forgiveness?
Christ took the initiative in reconciling us to Himself. It is the “goodness of God [that] leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4, NKJV). In Christ, we were reconciled to God while we were yet sinners. Our repentance and confession do not create reconciliation. Christ’s death on the cross did; our part is to accept what was done for us.
It is true that we cannot receive the blessings of forgiveness until we confess our sins. This does not mean that our confession creates forgiveness in God’s heart. Forgiveness was in His heart all the time. Confession, instead, enables us to receive it (1 John 1:9). Confession is vitally important, not because it changes God’s attitude toward us, but because it changes our attitude toward Him. When we yield to the Holy Spirit’s convicting power to repent and confess our sin, we are changed.
Forgiveness is also so crucial for our own spiritual well being. A failure to forgive someone who has wronged us, even if they do not deserve forgiveness, can hurt us more than it hurts them. If an individual has wronged you and the pain festers inside because you fail to forgive, you are allowing them to hurt you even more.
Forgiveness is releasing another from our condemnation because Christ has released us from His condemnation. It does not justify another’s behavior toward us. We can be reconciled to someone who has wronged us because Christ reconciled us to Himself when we wronged Him. We can forgive because we are forgiven. We can love because we are loved. Forgiveness is a choice. We can choose to forgive in spite of the other person’s actions or attitudes. This is the true spirit of Jesus.
How can focusing on the forgiveness we have in Christ help us to learn to forgive others?