Even the best relationships cause pain at times. When God created man, He did so in full knowledge of what that relationship would cost. Ever since the creation of Adam and Eve, God has been hurt by the sin of man. But because God places such a high value on relationships, He chooses to forgive us again and again.
Because God emphasizes forgiveness, we are also called to forgive. This is easier said than done! Choosing to forgo justice when offended takes incredible strength of heart and soul. It requires committing our offenses to God and allowing Him to be our defense. But even when forgiveness is hard, choosing it has an incredible impact on our lives and relationships with others.
Unforgiveness is passive revenge.
Unforgiveness paints a dark, sad picture. When we refuse to forgive, we are, in a sense, holding others accountable for their offenses against us. We are saying—perhaps not in so many words—that they owe us for the wrong they committed. Unforgiveness is passive revenge.
This is not how we were meant to live as Christians. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” God is the epitome of justice, the designer of right and wrong. As such, He is more than equipped to exact that justice on our behalf. By choosing forgiveness, we allow God to work in the perfect combination of love and justice.
Unforgiveness is about control.
Refusing to forgive often comes back to control. We don’t want to let go of an offense because it feels better to hold onto it; it feels better to know we are owed. The desire to control tempts us to forgo forgiveness, but that door only leads to bitterness. Trying to control others creates a harbor for criticism, envy and dissension, none of which reflects God’s heart of love.
We may feel justified to withhold grace, but we must remind ourselves that none of us deserved the grace of God, who was completely justified to withhold it from us. Yet even though He was justified, He gave grace anyway. That is what we are called to do.
Forgiveness leads to freedom.
The irony of forgiveness is that it doesn’t so much free the person who offended us; it frees us from bondage to their offense. When we forgive, we take a higher road of love and grace, a road paved by the blood of Jesus on our behalf. Choosing forgiveness raises our eyes to the things of eternal significance and helps us see others with the eyes of God—eyes of grace and mercy.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
Forgiveness trusts God.
Ultimately, we can never demand full payment for the offenses committed against us. Nothing a person can do would ever wipe away the memory or the pain. But the freedom of forgiveness lies in God’s grace toward us. We can trust that He will defend and justify us; we don’t need to do it ourselves. That’s a beautiful thing.
Allowing God to be our defense frees us to love others without fear. We can trust God to come through for us as we reach out with His kindness to those who need it most—including those who offend us most.