Forgiveness is a central element in embracing the love of God. We are called to forgive others as we ourselves have been and are continually forgiven. Jesus told us that if we did not forgive others, we would not be forgiven ourselves. Forgiveness is not an optional extra; it is absolutely essential to our spiritual and emotional health and wellbeing.
There are a lot of myths around the subject of forgiveness. If we forgive someone, we must like them, or we must reconcile with them, or we must let them off the hook, or minimise or excuse the wrong they have done to us. Some people think that forgiving someone else requires them to be sorry, to say sorry, to feel contrition.
None of these things is true. Forgiveness takes place in your heart alone. It does not require the cooperation or contrition of the person you are forgiving. These things are certainly required if there is to be reunion and restoration of relationship – but forgiving is done alone, in your heart, for your own health and freedom.
We should forgive slowly and carefully. This will involve recognising the humanity of the person who has wronged us, and not reducing them to their crime or wrongdoing. It will involve us leaving justice to God, rather than claiming our right to get even or get revenge. And it will, with time, involve us wishing the other person well in some way. All of this can take time and may require the help of others along the way.
It’s a long-term investment but, whatever happens, forgiveness will ultimately set you free. Don’t get bitter – get better!
Listen to the full Sunday message: "Forgiving one another", by Geoff Lee >