Recently on Twitter I encountered the rare occasion where I had my feelings hurt. It certainly wasn’t the first time and it probably won’t be the last, but this one stuck with me. It wasn’t necessarily because it was a fellow Christian, or someone I didn’t know well. It wasn’t completely because of who and how many liked the comment, it was because the harsh content of the message indicated to me the author’s intention. The person aimed to hurt me as a means of rebuttal, and in this case it succeeded.
Christians are not immune from hurting others, or being hurt. While we have the saving grace of God upon us and the guiding work of the Holy Spirit we are still ‘in the flesh’, we are still sinners, and we are still prone to hurt and to hurting others. So the comment and the subsequent hurt I felt, whether it was irrational or not, caused me to become the victim of another’s attack. While this is an extremely petty (mild, simple, little, not a big deal) example it is nonetheless relevant to the topic of forgiveness.
Lately there has been some talk about victims and forgiveness, whether or not it is required of professing Christians. Forgiveness has a special place in a Christians life. The forgiveness of past, present and future sins in Christ is one of the greatest unwarranted gifts of God done in love, for His people. Forgiveness is also one of the greatest examples of love we can demonstrate for one another. Yet we often withhold it, depending on the severity of the hurt and the willingness of the offender to repent (or beg for forgiveness). Forgiveness is difficult, it takes effort, it requires us to give more than we’re willing (or able).
“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:15
Forgiveness is an unselfish act defined as “the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offence, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.” Forgiveness is a good fruit for everyone involved and it is not good to withhold it. You never know how such simple words can affect another. I heard a story one day on the radio where a man had raped a young woman and she became pregnant. This sort of thing is often deemed unforgivable, but the newborn baby altered the thinking of the once hate-filled woman. The woman visited the man in prison and she forgave him of the rape. When he asked her why/how she said “God has forgiven me and I am an even greater sinner”. Her statement had a lasting impact on the man who would repent and turn his life to Christ.
Forgiveness of people who have hurt us is being obedient to God. If we do not forgive, the hurt may begin to manifest into such things as bitterness, resentment, hatred, etc. These things may in turn cause us to sin or badly influence other areas of our lives. Therefore we must actively consider the wrongs that have been done to us as forgiven, especially for our brothers and sisters, but also those who Jesus mentions when He said “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45) Though it is not easy to forgive, because we tend to think of ourselves first, forgiveness sets us free.