Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Early in my walk with Christ, I worked with a woman who had been raised in a house of churchgoers and who was very familiar with the traditions of her denomination. We would have biblical conversations at times, and she certainly provided some insight which proved invaluable to the development of my faith. There were other times, however, when her views did not seem to agree with the scriptures. One view in particular was her perspective on forgiveness. I remember grappling with the idea of releasing someone after being wronged by that person. She told me that she always was willing to forgive, but she never was willing to forget. Even though I was a baby Christian at that time, I knew that my Father’s forgiveness was different, that it did not come with a remembrance of my transgressions even if I should fall time and again.
We cannot forgive as God forgives if we are accountants of wrongdoing. The scriptures tell us that our sins are as far from us as the east is from the west, which means that forgiveness brings a separation of our transgressions from us. God does not sit up on high handing out absolution yet pointing his finger and reminding us of our mistakes. The Lord’s Prayer asks for him to forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us, which is an important point to understand. If we want God’s measure of unconditional forgiveness to apply to us, then we must be prepared to give that to others. If someone sins against me once, it might be easy to forgive, but I must be willing to forgive the second, third, and fourth transgressions and beyond. Then, it is my duty to regard that person as not having sinned against me at all.
We must grow in forgiveness as we go through our transformation because people will never stop needing it from us. There are some people in our lives who will need our forgiveness almost daily, and we are not called to withhold it. We also are not called to remove people from our lives simply because we have been offended or hurt. We are called to restoration with one another as we are restored to God. This is a continual process and can become a repetitive process, but it is a necessary process. We must grow both in our willingness to forgive and our ability to forgive, being able to forget the wrongs which have been committed against us. Father, continue to develop in us our desire and ability to forgive others, to hold them as separate from the sins they commit against us as You hold us as separate from the sins we commit against You.