At a time of year when giving and receiving gifts seems so important to so many, it may prove helpful to pause and reflect upon a far-greater gift—the gift of forgiveness. It is both a gift given and a gift received. Jesus says, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). How completely foreign to human reasoning! Yet, He followed up this teaching with personal example when He looked upon His tormentors, praying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34).
If we are completely honest, we must confess that forgiving others is not an easy thing for us to do. C.S. Lewis writes, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” But, in spite of its difficulty, forgiveness is essential in that Jesus went on to say, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions” (Mk. 11:25-26).
Someone has astutely observed: “We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive.” Alexander Pope wrote these familiar words: “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Indeed, offering the gift of forgiveness draws us closer into the image of God than does resentment. In fact, there is no disposition more destructive to the emotional and spiritual well-being of a person than harboring an unforgiving attitude. Such a spirit contaminates every other emotion. Injured egos and hurt feeling move us from anger to hatred and then from hatred to retaliation. Human nature demands revenge. This is why it is so important for us to immediately forgive even the smallest deed done against us. Someone has written: “Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, and the waste of spirit.” When bitterness and hatred rage within, we should take warning, for in the words spoken to Cain, “sin is crouching at the door” (Gen. 4:7).
What is forgiveness? Webster defines it as “pardon, acquittal, or remission; or to cancel, remit or to give up resentment against.” The word most often translated “forgive” in the New Testament means “remit, send away, to set or put apart, forsake, or leave.” Consequently, the principal meaning of forgiveness has to do with putting away all grudges and forgetting the wrong that has been done to us. This is what God promises to do for us in Christ. He will not hold our sins against us anymore (Heb. 8:12). Thank God for the precious gift of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus!
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