As promised in my Intro to this series, we’re studying the subject of Forgiveness. In part one, I simply want to attempt defining the term. Nothing more, nothing less. I think it will help with the ground work for where the series has taken me.
What is forgiveness?
Webster defines the word as such:
Main Entry: for·give·ness
: the act of forgiving
Main Entry: for·giv·ing
1 : willing or able to forgive
2 : allowing room for error or weakness
Main Entry: for·give
1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for b : to grant relief from payment of
2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : PARDON
intransitive senses : to grant forgiveness
Do you see where forgiving means: “allowing room for error or weakness”? It was difficult at one time for me to wrap my perfectionistic brain around that one. Each of these definitions is rather convicting. Perhaps, like me, many, many thoughts and memories crowd your brain as you read them. Before I get hung up on my human feelings and emotions regarding the task of true forgiveness, we should look into God’s view for a moment.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.“ 1 John 1:9
Throughout His word, we discover what forgiveness means to God. His forgiveness cleanses us, it frees us, and it uplifts us. We learn that He is faithful in his forgiveness. He doesn’t say, “Well, you say you’re sorry, but I know you’ll do that again next week; so…no, I’ve decided not to forgive you.”
His forgiveness brings with it a hope of eternity in heaven. By sending His Son to die in our place, He has “granted us relief from payment” for our sin. In this, He is our example, and He commands us to forgive others:
“…bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Colossians 3:13
Can you just picture for a moment what Christ endured that we might have His forgiveness? Humbling isn’t it? And yet, even knowing this, many of us still stamp our foot in defiance, like a spoiled child, and say, “What if I just don’t want to forgive?”