One of my favorite songs right now is Forgiveness by Matthew West. I originally was attracted to the song because of its rousing chorus, but since I've listened to the song more regularly, I've become even more drawn to the words of the verses.
The first two stanzas contain these words of wisdom:
"It's the hardest thing to give away,
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don't deserve"
"It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word
That's pretty heavy stuff.
You see, lately I've been awash in several different situations from several different fronts where some people have made me pretty angry, where some people have outright lied to me and hurt my feelings, and where some people have betrayed my trust. Satan's hand has been moving mightily. As my husband and I have been hashing our way through some of these experiences, forgiveness has been a frequent topic of conversation. And it's pretty human, I think, to cling to the opposite of the lyrics above to justify NOT giving forgiveness away.
The things that have hurt and angered me lately have not been met with remorse by the offenders, in some cases have not been acknowledged, and in some cases have adamantly been avoided. So really (the human in me says), if you can't admit that you've done wrong to me, and you can't face me and say you are sorry... why should I have to forgive you? Wouldn't it do us all just fine if we walk the other way and ignore each other? Aren't I justified in staying angry if you can't seem to care that you have been offensive? If all you can do is make excuses for your behavior, do you deserve my forgiveness?
Well, the Bible says that they do. When Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive people who had sinned against him, Jesus answered in Matthew 18:22 by saying, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times." Wow! That's a lot.
And so therefore, I have chosen to forgive those who have wronged me. It doesn't matter if they have asked for my forgiveness. It doesn't matter if they are avoiding me. It doesn't matter if they are denying their offense has even occurred. I have forgiven.
The beauty of forgiveness is that, in reality, it's not just for the wrongdoer. It's also for me. West's lyrics continue with the lines,
"It'll clear the bitterness away.
There is no end to what it's power can do."
Being the forgiver is liberating. Since I've made the choice to forgive these certain people, I no longer lay awake at night stewing. I no longer run their offenses over and over in my mind. I no longer feel anger (some disappointment and hurt, yes, but no anger) when I think of these people or the situations that have occurred. I feel peace.
There's an even bigger idea to grasp here than the forgiveness that I have extended. One final line from the song says, "Help me now to give what You gave me."
Colossians 3:13 tells us, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgives you."
If we were to take an intimate look at all the sins of my life (which I think we won't), we could say on a human level that I'm not that terrible of a person. But I assure you, I have done plenty for which I have needed to ask for forgiveness. And I am assured by the blood that Jesus spilled from the cross that all of my indiscretions have been forgiven. Colossians 1: 13 - 14 collaborates this by saying, "For he has rescued us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Even as Jesus was in the throes of his crucifixion, his plea was "Father, forgive them, for they do not know know what they do." (Luke 23:34). And surely no one has ever wronged me in such a way. I have not been beaten, I have not been spat upon, I have not been hung on a cross. If Jesus, even in His life-ending misery can look at the very men who were crucifying Him and extend His forgiveness, how can I do any less for the petty, non-life-ending occurrences that face me?