BIBLE PRINCIPLE: “Continue . . . forgiving one another freely even if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Just as Jehovah freely forgave you, you must also do the same.”—Colossians 3:13.
What does it mean? In the Bible, sin is likened to debt and forgiveness is compared to the cancellation of a debt. (Luke 11:4) One reference work says that in the Scriptures the Greek word translated “forgive” means “to let go [of] a debt, by not demanding it.” Thus, when we choose to forgive someone who has wronged us, we let go of any need for reparations from the offender. Our willingness to forgive does not mean that we approve of the wrong behavior or minimize the hurt that it has caused us. Rather, we simply decide to let go of resentment, even though we may have a legitimate “cause for complaint.”
Is it practical today? As imperfect humans, we all sin. (Romans 3:23) Hence we are wise to be inclined to forgive others, for sooner or later we will need to have others forgive us. Moreover, when we choose to forgive, we also benefit ourselves. How so?
When we harbor anger and resentment—and withhold forgiveness—we hurt ourselves. Such negative emotions can rob us of happiness, restrict our life, and make us miserable. They can also pose a serious health risk. A report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, by Dr. Yoichi Chida and Professor of Psychology Andrew Steptoe, concluded: “The current findings suggest a harmful association between anger and hostility and CHD [coronary heart disease].”
On the positive side, consider the benefits of forgiveness. When we freely forgive others, we preserve unity and peace, thereby safeguarding relationships. More important, we prove ourselves imitators of God, who freely forgives repentant sinners and who expects us to do the same.—Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:32; 5:1.