Are You Forgiving?
BILL and his 16-year-old daughter, Lisa, had difficulty getting along. Minor disagreements between them frequently developed into shouting matches. Finally, the tension escalated to the point that Lisa was asked to leave the house.*
After a time, Lisa came to recognize that she was at fault and sought her father’s forgiveness. But instead of overlooking Lisa’s past mistakes, her embittered father rejected her efforts to make peace. Imagine! He was unwilling to extend mercy to his own daughter!
Centuries ago a blameless man was condemned to die for a crime that he did not commit. Witnesses bore false testimony, and political officials turned their heads, their eyes blind to justice. That innocent man was Jesus Christ. Shortly before he died, he prayerfully asked God: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”—Luke 23:34.
Jesus forgave freely, from his heart, and his followers were urged to imitate him in this regard. (Ephesians 4:32) Like Bill, however, many are heartlessly unwilling to forgive. How do you measure up in this regard? Are you willing to forgive others when they sin against you? And what about serious sins? Must these also be forgiven?
Forgiveness a Challenge
Granting forgiveness is not always easy. And in these critical times, human relations have become ever more problematic. Family life in particular is often fraught with stresses and pressures. The Christian apostle Paul long ago stated that such conditions would prevail in “the last days.” He said: “Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, . . . without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride.”—2 Timothy 3:1-4.
Inevitably, then, all of us face external forces that test our ability to forgive others. What is more, we also struggle against internal forces. Paul lamented: “The good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. If, now, what I do not wish is what I do, the one working it out is no longer I, but the sin dwelling in me.” (Romans 7:19, 20) As a result, many of us are not as forgiving as we wish we were. After all, inherited imperfection and sin exert a powerful influence over all of us, sometimes robbing us of compassion for fellow humans.
When encouraged to forgive another for a small offense, one woman responded: “No one is worth the effort it takes to forgive.” On the surface such a comment may seem cold, callous, even cynical. Looking deeper, however, we see that it reveals the frustration that many people feel when they face a world that they view as selfish, uncaring, and hostile. One man said: “People take advantage of you when you forgive them. It’s like getting stepped on.”
Little wonder, then, that cultivating a forgiving attitude is difficult in these last days. Still, the Bible encourages us to forgive kindly. (Compare 2 Corinthians 2:7.) Why should we be forgiving?
Names have been changed.