Forgiveness is widely accepted as a central doctrine of Christianity. God is a just, but forgiving Father, who sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins so that we could be forgiven of them. And because we are forgiven of our sins, we are cleansed and become presentable to the Father as His children.
Jesus even taught us a lot about forgiveness. In Matthew 6: 9-13, He teaches us the Lord’s Prayer, and in it he teaches us to pray for our forgiveness, as we have also forgiven those that have sinned against us. He adds in verse 14 and 15 that we should forgive so that the Father in Heaven should also forgive us. In Matthew 18:21-22, when asked how many times we should forgive, he tells us to forgive our brother seven times seventy times. In Luke 17:3, He says “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”
He didn’t just teach about forgiveness either, He practiced it and He lived it. In John 8, a woman caught in adultery was brought to Him. They expected Him to enforce the law and have her stoned, but instead He asked the one who had no sin among them to throw the first stone. And when nobody threw the first stone, He looked up at the woman and asked her if there were any still left that accused her. When she answered “no,” He said to her, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
In Luke 23: 34, we have an even more extreme example of how Jesus chose to forgive others. Nailed to the cross and in great pain, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Even at the moment of His greatest suffering, at the final moments of His life, He chose to forgive those who had sinned against Him.
Clearly, just as we are forgiven, we are also taught to forgive, we are commanded to practice forgiveness of others. Why, then, is it so difficult to forgive?
Some say it’s just human nature. Hurt by another person, our natural reaction is to hurt back. Whether by words or by actions, when our persons or prides are injured, we want to retaliate. Others think that forgiveness is a trait of the weak, that if you are strong you are justified in being unforgiving of others. Other times, we even justify our inability to forgive, saying that the other person would not forgive us, or that the other person was unworthy of forgiveness, or even that the other person has not asked for forgiveness to begin with.
There can be many reasons behind it, and I will admit that I myself find it difficult to forgive some things. But the plain fact is that God has commanded us to forgive others, just as we have been forgiven by Him. The truth is, we are called to live a life of forgiveness, just as Jesus lived His life that way.
If you’re struggling with forgiveness, return to the source of forgiveness and pray for a heart that can forgive. This doesn’t mean forgetting about the transgression, but it does mean letting go of feelings of resentment. Lay it at His feet, let Him take care of it, and pray for guidance and strength. Ask for forgiveness for your own unforgiving heart. And pray for a change in yourself as you also pray for the one you’re struggling to forgive.
You’ll find that God will change your heart, and that He will guide you to a life of forgiveness.