Are you characterized and known as a forgiver?
The Bible teaches us two heart conditions exist: proud or humble. A proud heart is hard and holds on. A humble heart is soft and lets go, or forgives. When someone harms us, we either hold on or we let go. When we hold on, we remove the vertical from the horizontal, taking matters into our own hands. Consequently, we break up the cross into four pieces — each piece representing a prison wall. Ironically, the one incarcerated is not the offender, but the withholder.
Forgiveness does not occur horizontally in relationships without first occurring vertically with God in Christ. So, we are not the one forgiving, or letting go. Christ in us lets go. In order to forgive others, we must first be forgiven by God. Freedom in Christ from the penalty, power, and, one day, the presence of sin leads to freedom in relationships with others: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiveness frees us for reconciliation.
Forgiveness always precedes reconciliation, but reconciliation does not always follow forgiveness because reconciliation takes two.
Forgiveness welds together two ideas: justice and mercy. Both are found in Christ and are displayed in their ultimate clarity at the cross. Consequently, the key that unlocks the prison of withholding forgiveness is cross-shaped (humility toward God and others).
This week, try the instant forgiveness experiment. Every time that you are wronged, instantly let go of the offense and the offender. Do this by remembering that the biggest debt ever incurred was let go of you in Christ. While the offense against you horizontally might hurt, it pales in comparison to the weight of your sin against God. You will not be the one letting go; rather, it will be Christ in you. He will set you free.