Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34
FORGIVEN! No word in all the English language quite speaks to the heart of man as does this one word. Pause for a moment and pronounce the word several times: forgiven, forgiven! Forgiveness involves three areas of relationship--and the three, like the structure of a honeycomb, are all intertwined.
A problem in one area results in secondary implications in the others. Forgiveness involves your relationship with God; secondly, your relationship with others; and finally, your relationship with yourself. The one big difference, though, between your relationship with God and with ourselves and with others is that when it comes to our relationship with God, we must ask for forgiveness, while we must learn to extend it to ourselves and to others.
In other words, we must learn how to forgive others and to forgive ourselves, but never do we have to forgive God. Yet it is your relationship with God that is the basis of learning to forgive and to seek forgiveness as necessary in those other two areas.
To forgive means that you have been hurt, that your fundamental rights have been violated, and that you are willing to give up your right to redress or to compensation for what has happened to you. Writing to the Ephesians, Paul said, "Be kind, one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." That phrase, "even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you," becomes the model of our learning to forgive each other.
Because God has forgiven us, we have no right to refuse to forgive each other and ourselves as well. The true nature of forgiveness demands that the act of wrongdoing be put completely away to let God deal with it. Again God's forgiveness is the model. "As far as the east is from the west," wrote David in Psalm 103:12, "so far has God removed our transgressions from us." Following the elliptical course of the earth, scientists have measured the distance from the north to the south pole--12,420 miles, give or take a few inches, but the east and the west, friend, never meet.
Rudyard Kipling wrote, "East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet." When you forgive someone, you have got to bury the wrong done to you and treat it as though it had never happened. Two men were discussing the reactions of their wives when they get into arguments, and one said, "Well, when we get into an argument, my wife gets historical." "No," remarked his friend, "you mean she gets hysterical." "No," replied the first. "I used the right word. I meant historical because she keeps bringing up the past."
True forgiveness puts the deed aside as though it had never taken place. "Well, I'll forgive you this time, but if you ever do this again, we are through." Is that really forgiveness? It is merely an indefinite probation--the breach of which brings the full weight of the law for the first offense. Forgiven--what a beautiful word!
When the widow of a country doctor looked over the books of her deceased doctor husband, she discovered that he had written, "Forgiven--too poor to pay" across the page of many who owed her husband vast sums of money, and she, not having the grace to forgive so much, went to court to collect. The judge threw out the case. "What has been forgiven in his own handwriting," he contended, "cannot be collected by another." When the righteous Judge of the Universe forgives us, what right have we to try to make another pay? Yes, how beautiful that word--forgiven.
Resource reading: Philippians 2:1-11.