Forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. (Romans 12:19) ~Philip Yancey, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”
When I started reading Philip Yancey’s book about grace, I never even considered the possibility that he’d spend a third of the book talking about forgiveness. But when I thought about it, I realized that without forgiveness, there is no grace and without grace, there is no forgiveness. Grace, by definition requires forgiveness.
In thinking about the grace I’ve been given by God through Christ’s death, I submit the following:
I’ve understood for years that through Jesus’ death on the cross, my sins are forgiven. Justice has been served on my behalf. But I always understood it in an abstract way and forgiveness, it turns out, can never be abstract.
On the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” I always thought He was referring to the people who demanded his crucifixion, the people who put Him on the cross and the people who mocked Him as He hung there. He was, but I now realize He was referring to me too. In that moment, with those words, every sinner – not just those who stood below the cross or cowered in a corner somewhere in Jerusalem – was forgiven. I will never read that passage the same way again.
In light of the forgiveness we have been given, therefore, what right do we have to withhold forgiveness from a fellow sinner? The friend who betrayed us? The child who rejected us? The man who stole our innocence?
It’s hard. And in some cases, “hard” is too weak a word. We want to see them suffer. We want them to repent. We want to hold onto the anger that has kept us strong and stoic for so many years. In choosing to forgive, we may be forced to revisit the pain. But in choosing not to forgive, don’t we revisit that pain everyday anyway?
But when we choose to forgive – when we choose to extend grace – we are freed from the bonds of past hurts. We are freed to move forward in peace. And who knows that our forgiveness may lead that person to repentance? We can not afford to wait until it is the other way around. God didn’t.
Why do you think it’s so hard for us to forgive? What have you learned recently about forgiveness?