The Art of Forgiveness
By Irene C. Taylor
To err is human; to forgive is divine." Some of the most difficult words for humans to say are: "I have sinned. I am sorry. I forgive." Yet, if we are to be like Jesus we must learn the art of forgiveness. It is a serious matter to be unforgiving. There is a principle revealed in the model prayer given by our Lord to his disciples. "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Man. 6:12). Further, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:1415). Read those statements again-slowly and carefully.
Biblical forgiveness is based, in part, upon asking for forgiveness. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." The forgiveness was not granted until the guilty repented (Luke 23:34; Acts 2:3641). But we must always be willing to forgive those who have sinned against us. "For thou, lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee" (Psa. 86:5).
When God forgives, he no longer "remembers." He removes it from our record. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. 8:12).
When we forgive, we must act as though the matter had never occurred. We cannot keep "throwing it up" at future times. If we have truly forgiven we, too, will mark it off the record. "God pardons like a mother who kisses the offense into everlasting forgiveness" (Jo Petty Apples of Gold, p. 12).
Too often we humans foolishly refuse to extend forgiveness on the basis that we do not believe in the sincerity of the one requesting it. What dangerous ground this is. Only God has the power to look within the heart and judge sincerity. We are to forgive whenever forgiveness is requested (Luke 17:34). To rebuff a request to make right a wrong is to place our own soul in jeopardy. "It is only the forgiving who are qualified to receive forgiveness."
The ability to forgive would sweeten many a home. "We pardon as long as we love" (Jo Petty, Wings of Silver, p. 17). When love reigns in the home, we exercise patience and forgiveness realizing that we, ourselves, need forgiveness often (1 Cor. 13:45). A generous observance of the Golden Rule paves the way for the flow of forgiveness (Matt. 7:12).
Willingness to forgive and forget would heal many church problems and solve the animosity which rots personal relationships. None of us has suffered the ill treatment heaped upon our Lord or the early Christians. Yet, in our foolish pride, we often harbor ill feelings and/or nurse a grudge based on a much lesser slight.
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"Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it" (Jo Petty, Apples of Gold, p. 14).
Why not take the time to spread the fragrance of forgiveness now toward one with whom you have had a misunderstanding? Tomorrow may be too late. Husbands and wives should not pillow their heads with unresolved anger between them. Christian brothers and sisters make every effort to resolve personal differences.
There is an art to forgiving one another. It is an art which needs to be polished and used frequently. "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven YOU" (Eph. 4:32).