On Forgiving

Forgiveness is rare because it is difficult, and difficult because it seems to mock justice.

“I’ll never forgive,” we hear, “because the hurt is too deep. He owes so much that he could never repay me or make it right.” Justice tells us that our rights have been violated,

and that we are entitled to payment. Thus, if payment can not be made, forgiveness is impossible.

But God’s forgiveness does not negate justice; it transcends it. True forgiveness does not deny the debt or pretend there was no loss or hurt. Rather, forgiveness bears the loss, and so the debt is paid, by the forgiver. Forgiveness trumps justice by paying the fine and allowing the prisoner to go free.

Outrageous? Precisely. And that is what got Jesus into so much trouble with the self-righteous. He was able to say to the adulteress, “Neither do I condemn you,” because He knew He would die for her sins. It is not that her debt went unpaid or her sins unpunished. By His stripes she was healed. John 8:11; Isaiah 53:5.

This principle is foundational for all relationships, and why Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses (or debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors). When we can’t (or don’t) pray that way, we join the Christ-condemning self-righteous who pretend they are without sin, and owe God nothing. We become the wicked steward in the Matthew 18 parable.

Jesus’ way is, “Freely you have received; freely give.”

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