Forgiving others is one of the fundamental components of Christian life. It is also challenging. Forgiveness is not pretending that some injury didn’t happen, that no one betrayed a trust, broke a relationship, or acted unjustly. Forgiveness acknowledges the reality of offenses but denies them the power to rule the future.
To live human beings need to forgive, for without forgiveness there would be only an iron law of punishment and revenge. Without forgiveness few people would admit their faults and failings, but pile up lies and rationalizations instead. Without forgiveness relationships and commitments would wither.
Forgiveness calls for different things at different times. It may require consigning offenses to the past instead of dragging them into the present. It may mean giving up the wish to see justice done or to balance the scales, realizing that complete justice will never be done nor will the scales ever truly balance. Sometimes it will mean admitting that we could easily have done the evil we have suffered if the circumstances had been different.
Jesus spoke a lot about forgiveness, making it one of the hallmarks of the Kingdom of God. He instructed the disciples to forgive without measure (70x7 times) and even linked our own expectation for God’s forgiveness with our forgiving others, telling us to pray that God forgive us “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the apostles on Easter night in order to make them agents of forgiveness (John 20). And although the church may sometimes appear to be more inclined to condemn than to forgive, Christ calls it to distinguish itself in its willingness to forgive and to foster reconciliation.
In this world we will always need to forgive and although it may be challenging, with God's help we can grow in our ability to forgive and mirror in our own lives that quality of God which gives us hope.