Forgiving Those Who Don’t Deserve It
Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. Luke 11:4
A couple of times lately, I’ve heard our pastor say this: You will never have to forgive someone else more than God has forgiven you. It’s a difficult thought to grasp. It’s not that I doubt God’s forgiveness. It’s just that some of our unforgiveness seems so justified.
To be fair, I’ve generally required more forgiveness of others. I’ve more often been the offender than the offended, so I’ve been on the receiving end of mercy more often than I’ve needed to give it. Still, I know those who have been hurt in ways that – to me at least – it seems justified to refuse forgiveness.
Most of us know those who have had great evil done to them. We also likely know whether or not they cling to their resentment, or if, as Jesus commanded, they have forgiven. Those who forgive generally find peace. Those who justify their resentments, however, are eventually consumed by them, becoming bitter and hateful.
In today’s passage, as Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he said that we must daily ask forgiveness of God just as we forgive those who’ve wronged us. We may feel that we’re justified in hanging on to unforgiveness, but for our own spiritual health, Jesus says we must forgive. This has nothing to do with whether the offender is penitent or not. The person who has hurt us may never be deserving of forgiveness. Still, we must forgive for this reason: God has forgiven us even though we will never deserve it. God has forgiven us more than we will ever have to forgive someone else.
If we desire to be forgiven, and if we desire to live in a right relationship with our creator, then we must forgive, even when we feel justified. Bitterness is a cancer that eats at our soul, driving a wedge between God and us. Resentment may be immediately gratifying, and letting go of it may be painful, but just like any addiction, we must do whatever it takes to kill it, choosing forgiveness.
This often isn’t a once-and-done event. We may forgive today, only to find anger creeping back tomorrow. If we desire to find true life, then daily, as with any other struggle, we must do what it takes to abandon our bitterness, choosing forgiveness.