It’s often said that since a Christian is forgiven, he should be willing to forgive more readily than others. But in your heart you know that it’s just not that simple. You may even be frustrated that you seem to hold a grudge just as easily now as you ever have. Why is forgiveness so hard?
Forgiveness is a free gift—to the recipient. It is expensive to the giver. Tim Keller, in his book The Reason for God, explains why:
God’s grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver ... No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator ... But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.
This is why forgiveness is so hard. When you forgive someone of a slight, it doesn’t just go away; you must “bear it yourself.” For instance, if I forgive a loan I made to someone, they don’t have to pay me back, but I still don’t have the money!
When God forgave our sins, the sin didn’t go away. The cost (or “wages” in Romans 6:23) of sin still exist—and Jesus paid that cost on our behalf with His own death.
This is what we are called to do. In Luke 6, Jesus says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Jesus tells us that the way we treat others will actually affect our lives. He goes on, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Here is our second heart-based New Year’s Resolution for 2013: Acknowledging the cost, I will “give forgiveness” to others this year.
Don’t do it alone. Find another brother or your small group and make this resolution together. Practice forgiving each other. Encourage each other to forgive even when it’s costly or painful. And give thanks to God for His forgiveness as you follow His example.
Brett Clemmer is a Christ-follower, husband, father, rock climber, runner and avid reader. He lives in Central Florida and works for Man in the Mirror. In his role as Vice President of Leadership Development, Brett spends the majority of his time writing, training and equipping church leaders to disciple men. Brett co-authored No Man Left Behind, a guidebook for church leaders who want to build male disciples in their church. He is active on Facebook and Twitter, and maintains the One Man, Under God blog at brettclemmer.tumblr.com.