forgive or not . . ?

Forgiveness is a funny thing. Often much easier to receive than to give. Often not given because of some condition we put on one another before we will forgive . . .

How it must that grieve the heart of God for me to type that last sentence?

Several decades ago, I sat in a woman’s conference listening to Elizabeth Elliot, who had all the reasons not to forgive an Amazon tribe whose members had murdered her husband and others on their way to share the Gospel of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness.

Her words slammed into my brain as I sat next to the woman whom I most needed to forgive. Forgiveness is not an option. We simply must forgive one another . . . always.

Then she said something that forged itself deep within my soul.

We are to forgive not because we think the person deserves to be forgiven. Whether we think the person realizes they need to be forgiven. Asks for forgiveness. Or even cares whether we forgive.

We are not justified in holding onto the hurt inflicted on us. We are not free if our life is marked by pain, grief, or anger. Maybe even a desire for revenge.

No. God says simply, forgive as I have forgiven you.

For you see, forgiving is not just about releasing the other person into the hands of the Lord. It is also about us . . .

Grace was forged by great cost. Yet freely given by a Savior who had all the human reasons not to forgive. Who would have been justified in bringing down the wrath of God upon those who treated Him so cruelly. And yet on the cross, with his dying breaths, He forgave us all.

Throughout the Bible, we find grace running from cover to cover, beginning to end.

Yes, at times across its pages, we see punishment. Consequences of human sin played out. But more so, we also see grace offered. Opportunities given to hand all things over to the Lord. Accept His forgiveness and cleansing. Seek to live as He asks . . .

I just finished the movie I Can Only Imagine and was deeply moved by powerful scenes of two transformed lives.

The monster who wreaked havoc upon the other. And the one who forgave him.

If God has forgiven us . . . then we, to be truly free, must forgive those who hurt us.

Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 NASB