What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a canceled note, a paid debt, a bridge burned. Forgiveness is the deliberate decision to take a debt and chalk it up as not owing to the account. Forgiveness is an open acceptance of the wrong done without requiring justice. Forgiveness is also an unlocking of the soul, a freedom from having to exact revenge, a winging of the spirit heavenward. Mark Twain once said, "Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."
How must we forgive? When Peter came to Christ in Matthew 18, he asked, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" Peter like any of us was tempted to think that there should be a limit to the forgiveness required.. But listen to Jesus' reply in verse twenty-two, "I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven." We are quick to want to place limits on the painful process of forgiveness, but Jesus' reply rings clear, "until seventy times seven." If there are limits to forgiveness, the very nature of forgiveness is violated. For he who would hold onto one grudge spoils all.
How can we forgive? There are three things that will help us to forgive as we ought.
First, we must humble ourselves. Pride quickly strikes down any attempt at forgiveness. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." This same humble heart needed to experience forgiveness from God is the humble heart that will allow us to see our own faults and offer forgiveness for the offenses of another.
Secondly, we must look to Jesus. Surely, Jesus is our greatest example in the matter of forgiveness. When nailed to the cruel cross by men whom He had created; who spit upon, scoffed at, mocked, and ridiculed Him, He cried out, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." There is a Divine glory in such forgiveness that spurs us to forgive the petty faults of our fellow humans.
Thirdly, as we humble ourselves and consider Christ's example, we cannot help but see our position as forgiven people. In Luke 7, we have the parable of the two debtors. In the verses just prior to this story a Pharisee who had invited Jesus over for a meal was indignant that Jesus would let a sinful woman touch His feet. Jesus detected his self-righteous attitude and told this story in response. He says in verse 41, "There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?" and Simon, the Pharisee, replies, "I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most." Simon gave a correct answer to Jesus' question, but reality goes deeper.. Really, none of us have been forgiven more than others. We may feel better than another, but we are all forgiven sinners, lost and without hope outside of God. Jesus' story teaches that it is only as one realizes the magnitude of God's forgiveness that he can find the proper vantage point from which to extend forgiveness to others. Colossians 3:13 says it this way: "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."
In one of her books, Corrie Ten Boom writes about meeting a lady who seemed familiar, but wouldn't look her in the eye. Asking about her, Corrie was told the woman had been a nurse at a concentration camp. Suddenly memories flooded back. Corrie recalled taking her sister Betsy to the infirmary when her feet were paralyzed and she was dying. This woman was the nurse who had been there. She had been cruel and sharp tongued. Hatred welled up within her; she boiled with rage. She cried out to God, "Forgive me, forgive my hatred, O Lord. Teach me to love my enemies."
The blood of Jesus seemed to cool her embittered heart. She began to pray for the woman, and one day shortly afterward called the hospital where the woman worked and invited her to a meeting. "What!" the nurse asked. "You want me to come?"
"Yes, that is why I called you." Corrie insisted.
"Then I'll come."
That evening the nurse listened carefully. Afterward Corrie sat down with her, opened the Bible and explained 1 John 4:9. The woman seemed to thirst for Corrie's quiet, confident words about God's love for us and for His enemies. That night, a former captive led her former captor to Christ.
In six words, Luke 6:37 powerfully wraps up the topic of forgiveness: "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven," The command is simple forgive. The warning, though veiled, is weighty those who will not forgive cannot be forgiven. But the promise is sweet ye shall be forgiven. Forgiven, redeemed, accepted oh to be worthy of such a gift!
— Molino, FL