I think forgiveness is one of the hardest things. We are told again and again in the Bible that we are supposed to forgive, but we’re never really told how. Yes, we can imitate God and try to love the people who hurt us, and we know that forgiveness from His perspective is a washing away of guilt (which only He can do), but how do we do it exactly? It’s something I’ve wrestled with for a long time. People say “forgive and forget,” but I don’t think that’s exactly it. As a human being, I have dignity, and sometimes it wouldn’t be wise TO forget. Even if I could.
I recently heard a sermon suggesting that when Jesus said that we are to forgive not seventy times, but seventy times seven, He was referring to each individual offense. Forgiveness isn’t a one-time thing; as humans, we don’t have complete control over our emotions and we can’t just magically wash away our feelings. Forgiveness takes constant work, and it was encouraging to me to see this Scripture from a new light. Jesus is recognizing that it can’t all be done at once, but He IS telling us to keep working at it.
But still, how? Some things I try–with mixed success–are looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective, focusing on things I like about him or her, praying for the person, and just trying to move on. But today I had another thought.
Jesus said, “Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did to me.” I always thought about ME doing right and wrong to Him through the way I treat others, as I believe I rightly should. But what about others treating me? When others harm me, they hurt Jesus, too. He hurts with me. I suddenly felt such a connection to Him on a level I hadn’t before. And if He hurts with me–not just from the same things as I do, but with me–then He’s forgiving with me, too, if I choose to forgive with Him. He is willing to forgive either way, so how can I not? And what an opportunity to enter into something beautiful WITH Him. Working on projects with my loved ones on earth creates a special bond between us. How much more will forgiving with God bring me closer to Him?
I don’t think this answers the question of HOW. But for me, this realization gave me the desire I never had to forgive, to love the person who offended me because I can love with God. It’s such a privilege, so special that He would give us such a deeply personal way to strengthen our relationships with Him.