Forgiving other people, for most, is very hard. However, it is necessary in order for a society to function with civility. Forgiving requires not only the proper attitude and motivation, but also the proper action by the forgiving party.
Forgiving as an adjective carries the idea of a disposition to forgive; the willingness or ability to pardon the guilt of a wrong done. Inherent in this word forgiving is the desire to grant the remission of the penalty for a wrong done or the lack of doing something by the other person.
A person may have a forgiving spirit from the standpoint they do not hold grudges. They are more than ready and willing to overlook a wrong done to them by another person. They are not looking for revenge for an offense done to them.
A Christian who does not naturally have this personality may have to endeavor to develop the action of forgiveness because of several things taught in the Bible. Jesus in the great Sermon on the Mount taught that a person should request God to forgive them like they have forgiven others (Matthew 6:12). If they have forgiven others then God will forgive them and likewise if they have not forgiven others, God will not forgive them (Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus also taught that the number of times forgiveness is granted to a person is unlimited (Luke 17:4).
In addition to us wanting to be forgiven by God we find another motivation for forgiving is that it comes from the heart (Matthew 18:35). This forgiveness must be sincere and not just saying the words, “I forgive you.” There must be genuineness to our action.
With regard to the action of forgiveness, following the actions of God may be most appropriate. While God has the attitude of wanting to forgive people, there must be some actions on the part of the individual before God will grant the forgiveness. There must be the confessing of the wrong done (1 John 1:9). There must be the action of repenting of the wrong done before there can be any forgiveness (Luke 17:3) along with the statement, “I will repent” (Luke 17:4).
The greatest example of forgiveness was displayed by Jesus when He was suffering on the cross. He asked His Father to forgive those who had crucified Him (Luke 23:34). His request would have been meaningless if He had no desire for them to be forgiven.
Forgiving our fellow man is hard, especially when physical harm is done. However, having the attitude, motivation and actions of Jesus as it relates to forgiveness is absolutely mandatory if we are going to be living God’s way.
Carlton G. McPeak is an evangelist working in the Florida Gateway region. All Scriptural quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, unless otherwise stated. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.