Forgiveness is hard.
It’s even harder when the person who wronged us doesn’t own up to the wrong.
I’ve been there. I get it.
So, what does forgiveness look like then?
Lewis Smedes, in his excellent book The Art of Forgiving, writes, “When a person close to us wrongs us, he throws up two obstacles between us. One of the obstacles is our sense of having been violated, which produces our anger, our hostility, our resentment. This is the obstacle that our forgiving removes. But only the person who wronged us can remove the other obstacle. And he can remove it only by repentance and, if need be, restitution.”
You can’t control the second obstacle. You can only control the first.
You can only deal with your anger, hostility, and resentment.
And you can deal with it by taking on a posture of forgiveness.
We’ve been talking about forgiving others. But the reality is forgiveness can only be given when it is accepted.
Think about it.
God offers forgiveness to everyone. But not everyone receives forgiveness. Only those who accept it receive it.
So it is with us.
We are called to offer forgiveness. But we can’t give it to anyone until it is received through repentance.
Now, that doesn’t let us off the hook.
Offering forgiveness looks just like giving it.
It means refusing to harbor bitterness and resentment.
It means giving up your right to get even.
It means holding your tongue when you’re tempted to gossip or lash out.
It means desiring the best for your offender.
It means praying for the one who hurt you.
That’s what it looks like to offer forgiveness.
Whether or not the person who has wronged us ever repents, that is what we’re called to do.
But so was the cross.
And the cross is not only our model of forgiveness. It is our source of forgiveness.
We love because God first loved us. We forgive because God first forgave us.
He broke down His barrier. It is our responsibility to break down ours.