Forgiveness is an important aspect of this life’s journey. Scripture, sermons, testimonies, books, and songs highlight the importance and benefits of forgiving others. Colossians 3:13 advises us to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Daniel 9:9 says “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.”
Forgiveness takes on many dimensions and occurs at different speeds. Forgiveness is an act as well as ongoing process. Some offenses are slight and forgiveness is almost instantaneous. Other offenses are deep and excruciatingly painful. In those instances, forgiveness is multi-layered and may occur over an extended period of time. Forgiveness is a lifestyle – a constant internal check for situations we need to release to God so that we can continue to be renewed and walk in newness of life.
As we spiritually mature, we become increasingly aware of the importance of extending grace and mercy to others. Yet, we are often guilty of being more condemning of ourselves than those who have offended us. When others fall short, we have a tendency to excuse them. Yet, when we fall short, we are reluctant to forgive ourselves. Romans 3:23 states that “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Celebrated Christian author Anne Lamott stated that “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” Perfectionism is sinful because it is a form of pride. The All About God web site insightfully states that “Whenever we enact a different set of rules, a higher set of standards for ourself over others, that is pride. When we can find it within ourself to forgive others, but not ourselves, we are saying that we are less capable of making a poor decision than others. We are somehow more intuitive, wiser, more insightful, more careful than others, and therefore, we are without excuse and should not forgive ourselves. When we reject the forgiveness extended to us by God and others, when we refuse to forgive ourselves, what we are doing is setting ourselves above others and that is pride! Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Unforgiveness of oneself will bring self-destruction, a haughty spirit, and a fall. Christian forgiveness will bring peace.
Accepting the gift of God’s forgiveness is absolutely liberating. It removes guilt, bitterness, sorrow, resentment, regret, and other distractions that would hinder our prayer lives as well as our overall faith walk. Forgiveness allows us to be loving and generous with others as well as ourselves. We can submit to our natural inclination to be generous and loving because we know that the same measure of grace and mercy that God extends to us, we can extend to others. Gratitude for God’s forgiveness can further fuel our passion for serving others. The first four versus of the 130 Psalm says “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”