Forgiveness is so central to being a Christian yet it continues to be our challenge. Whether it is someone who cuts me off in traffic, cuts in line in front of me, or verbally says something offensive, forgiveness is far from the first emotion that I feel. When wronged by those who I am close to, I find it is somewhat easier to forgive them, perhaps justifying that they are blind to their actions. I tend to be a peacemaker so I try to keep things non confrontational.
When Jesus was asked by Peter how many times should he forgive someone who sins against him he replied by telling him 490 times -- in other words an infinite amount. Then Jesus told him about the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor. The servant who was forgiven by his king of a very large debt was unwilling to forgive his fellow servant who owed him a very small debt. Ultimately the evil servant was sent to prison to be tortured for his failure to show mercy on his fellow servant.
Is forgiveness something that comes easy and naturally to humans? Certainly not, to which history can readily attest. Revenge is alive and well in this world.
What is forgiveness? It can be defined as a pardon, renouncing anger and not expecting repayment. Why is forgiveness so difficult to give? Perhaps it goes against our human tendency to be prideful. Why is it so important to give to others? Not only does it set Christians apart from others, it can set us free from those who have wronged us.
Forgiveness is not something I can freely give especially to unrepentant offenders. Yet Jesus, while on the cross, asked his Father to forgive humanity for the very ones who put him there -- “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. At the unimaginable cost of his Son’s life, God gave us the forgiveness we never deserved with no requirements of repayment. What an ultimate example God gave us!