There are so many situations in our daily lives that call out for forgiveness of one another, but how often do we actually forgive? And, how long does it take for us to forgive? Is it okay to hold on to the anger for long periods of time or should we immediately forgive the person who has trespassed against us?
I think that Christ showed us what we must do. After He'd been beaten, scourged and hung on a cross by his enemies, He didn't hold on to any anger, stew in His juices and then days or even hour later decide to forgive them. This is evident at the testimony of Luke at Luke 23:24 where Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." This was while he was hanging on the cross, hurt, bleeding and dying. He immediately forgave them and asked that His Father do the same, knowing not only that what was happening must happen but also knowing that those who crucified him were caught in Satan's snare. And so should we forgive our enemies.
In the Lord's prayer we say, "and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We are asking our Heavenly Father for forgiveness. Right then and there. And if our hearts are read to find that we are truly repentant, forgiveness is granted. So would it be righteous or fair, if we ask or expect to be forgiven our trespasses, to hold what others do against us, against them indefinitely? Or would it be more righteous and fair to immediately forgive? How can we not show others what we ask of our Father for ourselves?
In the book of Proverbs there are several verses which speak of forgiveness. This is an indication as to how important learning to forgive one another really is.
Proverbs 19:11 A man’s wisdom gives him patience, it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
It is truly wise to practice patience. And in this mad, mad world patience truly is a virtue. But wisdom shows us that patience is also a virtue and that it is to our glory to overlook an offense. Sometimes this isn't easy. A lot of times in fact, it's very hard especially when we've been hurt. But to remember that we are forgiven by the measure we use is imperative. We must all recognize and fully understand that Satan is at work amongst us and many have fallen prey to his snares and rather than cursing the person who does us wrong, pray for them and overlook their offense. It takes patience, but it is possible and leaves our hearts open to receiving the glory of God who works through us.
Proverbs 24:17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice
Some are able to forgive because they believe in a thing called Karma. "Oh, well he'll get his eventually." they say. And when that person does, they gloat and rejoice in their hearts. We must ask ourselves if Christ Himself gloated when those who persecuted and crucified Him met with unfortune. Or if He will be gloating when justice is measured out upon evil mankind at Armageddon. Knowing Christ, the answer would be no. Instead I believe He would be saddened at the senselessness of it all. I believe He would pray for them still and take no pleasure in the misfortune they're currently experiencing.
Proverbs 24:29 Do not say, "I'll do to him as he has done to me; I'll pay that man back for what he did."
When we've been wronged, vengeance belongs to the Lord, therefore we should never be vindictive or spiteful or secretly wish to teach that person a lesson for what they've done. Instead, pray that they realize what they've done and seek forgiveness for their sin(s). And, also trust that our Heavenly Father who knows all and sees all, will handle whatever we can't, for us.
Proverbs 25:21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
Probably the greatest act of kindness is instead of turning your back against those who have hurt or wronged you, to show compassion and mercy for them. After all, that is what Christ did too. He did not come for the righteous but for the sinners. He came as a beacon of light to lead them out of the darkness and back to Father and give them the opportunity to achieve eternal life.
1 John 2:11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn't know where he's going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1 John 2:5 But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him.
Through Christ we were shown what we must do but we must also keep God's words written upon our hearts and pursue the perfected love of Him, so that we too do not walk in darkness and know that we are in union with Him. This is how we know and show others that the truth is really in us. Just remember, that the one who says he is in the light but also hates his brother is really in darkness. But the one who loves his brother via forgiveness and compassion remains in the light and this is how we allow our Heavenly Father's light to shine upon the world.