Forgiveness is not a feeling, an emotion. If we wait to forgive until we feel forgiveness, we may never get around to it at all. Forgiveness is a choice, an act of the will; it is following what we are clearly commanded to do by Jesus Himself. It is what we do in order to be forgiven by God. It is what we do to avoid self-pity, bitterness, and depression.
I had a conversation with someone this week who believes that you cannot forgive someone who does not sincerely repent; who does not ASK for forgiveness. I’m still thinking about what she said because I don’t agree with her but so far have not been able to penetrate her conviction.
If she is correct, then anyone who has ever hurt us, but who never acknowledges their behavior or seeks forgiveness, is still hurting us every time the memory arises. We are burdened to carry unforgiveness toward those who have hurt us and died without seeking forgiveness. I do not believe God intended for us to carry such negativity, never forgiving until the offender comes to seek forgiveness. The closest I came to giving her pause to think differently was to point out that Jesus, from the cross, said, “Father, forgive them. . . . .” when none of His tormenters had sought forgiveness.
I think perhaps we need to review the definition of forgiveness: It is simply giving up one’s right to demand justice. Clearing the debt. Purging it out of the books, as if it had never existed; requiring no payment whatsoever.
And it is a choice we make based not on warm fuzzy feelings, but on a clear understanding of God’s Word. Matthew 6: 14-15 are crystal clear about the importance of our learning to forgive others in order to receive forgiveness from God.
Choose to forgive. Do it purposefully and prayerfully. Doing so does NOT mean you must continue to accept poor treatment; it does free you from anger, self-pity, bitterness, and depression.