Be kind to one another, tender-hearted,
forgiving each other,
just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:32 NASB
Forgiving the misdeeds of others against us would be easy if it were as simple and satisfying as accepting their humble apologies as they came crawling to us in abject brokenness. It would be (we imagine) an act of mercy to relieve the suffering of such penitents. But that scene is the stuff of fantasy conjured up by a wounded heart, rarely rooted in reality. Humanity, as a whole, is pretty good at making excuses for its actions and words. We’d rather enter our houses justified in our own minds than make the painful trip to humility’s doorstep to ask for forgiveness. So we stand at mutual arm’s length as we hold tight to our respective territories and await capitulation from the other side.
Forgiveness is the gift we love to withhold from the undeserving.
But it never feels right, does it? Holding on to the offenses of others against us keeps us captive to a constant replay. We relive the pain; we bleed all over again. But this time the wounds are self-inflicted as we cut ourselves in an effort to release the pain we should be releasing in three simple words: “I forgive you.”
During His time on earth, Jesus actively sought to extend forgiveness to everyone who has or ever will exist. He entered time and space and lived His entire life with the express purpose of giving us a chance to receive forgiveness. One of His last acts on the cross was to forgive his killers, executioners neither Roman nor Jew. The nails in Jesus’ body were put there by every dirty thought and action of His crowning creation:
You and me.
I did not ask for Him to come. I wasn’t worthy of His suffering for my wrongdoing. He forgave me long before I asked for or wanted his forgiveness. But as He waited all those years, He never once treated me like the undeserving person I am.
Throughout the centuries and to this day, He likewise extends the scepter of life to all who will reach out to touch it. As long as there is hope for repentance, He endures our blasphemies, taunts, and flagrant sins. The gift is extended; it is up to us to reach for it. We are all the undeserving; there is no one who has not needed forgiveness. Remembering our own frailties, our goal should be to live in a constant state of forgiveness, extending to others that which we have received.
Extending forgiveness frees us. What others do with the gift is their decision.
For if you forgive others for their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
Matthew 6:14-15 NASB