There are only to people we have to forgive in this life. The first is the other person and the second is ourselves. Who that other person changes from time to time. The reasons we have to forgive them also varies, but in the end, we know that we should forgive them.
But there is also another person we have to forgive. And for many of us, if not most of us, this person we have a harder time forgiving. I think the biggest reason is that we never escape being with them. It doesn’t matter where we go, we are always there. And if we have done something wrong or foolish we replay that decision or event over and over again.
I will say it as simply as possible: Forgiveness is one of the most difficult choices we make. And it is a choice. It is a choice to find a way to not punish the other person for a wrong they have committed against us and it is a choice not to continue punishing ourselves. We have to learn to forgive. We have too, or we will be buried under the weight of our anger and shame.
The problem we have is learning how to do it. How do we forgive? If we are not believers in God, if we are not followers of Jesus, we have no teacher suitable to the task. Only God knows how to forgive an enemy. Look at these remarkable words the apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church.
8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11 ESV, emphasis added)
While we were yet sinners—distant from God—and while we were God’s enemies—fighting against God—God showed his grace and love and reconciled us to himself through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
This is the biblical example and demonstration of forgiveness. In Jesus, God punishes sin and removes the reason for God to punish our sin. The penalty for my sin, that rightly belongs to me and that I should pay, has been credited to God and in exchange, I receive Christ’s righteousness and God’s reconciling mercy.
The price of forgiveness is sacrificial love. If we want to forgive we have to stop trying to keep this old life alive. We have to be born again and allow God to remove all of the stuff that we keep holding onto. Dead people don’t need anything. But, too many of us are still holding onto a life God has been trying to bury. And so, we can’t move on. We can’t move forward.
My prayer is that during this season of Lent you can begin the process of letting go of your old life. Let God build a new life for you. A better one. One that is able to be truly marked by forgiveness.