What does it mean to forgive someone? How do you know if you have really forgiven? What difference does it make if you do not forgive? Can you serve the Lord and not forgive others? Is forgiveness a one-way transaction or does it involve participation by the offended and the offender? Sometimes it is difficult to answer these questions.
Christians, because of their spiritual rebirth, should naturally have a forgiving spirit. And yet, if we don’t even understand forgiveness, are we really forgiving?
An elderly person stated: “In my younger days an influential, spiritual leader accused me of a horrific sin. I was innocent. Because of the public accusation, I was embarrassed and angered. I left the church for a year. I don’t think I turned from God during that time, but I was unsure of my spiritual condition as a result of the incident. I believed that I forgave the man in my heart. And yet, years later, sometimes I wonder if I really did forgive him.” How can we know for sure?
Can you forgive someone if you only do it in your heart? Is a personal confrontation necessary to have real forgiveness? Does the offender have to show remorse in order to be forgiven? What is the relationship between Divine and human forgiveness? Are we supposed to forgive like God forgives? Is this even possible?
Jesus said that if we don’t forgive we can’t expect to receive the forgiveness of God. This reality emphasizes the importance of the matter, therefore we need to be aware of what true forgiveness means. The news item for our lesson today about the mother of a mass murderer who received forgiveness from the parents of the victims will serve as a springboard to explore this important issue.