Forgiveness and the ability to forgive are, nearly universally, seen as desirable. Yet, it is often very hard to forgive someone even though the results of being unforgiving are just as bad, and maybe worse, than the initial slight. Sometimes bitterness follows. Still, forgiveness is difficult, even when it is our best interest. Why is that?
It is hard to forgive someone because we all have, to a greater or lesser degree, a sense of justice. Forgiving someone seems to be inequitable for injury requires compensation just as surely as debts demand repayment. Forgiveness is hard because it requires that we give up our rights, or so we sometimes tell ourselves.
However, is that really the case?
I want to think about forgiveness in terms of God, not just any god, but The One True God of The Bible. The God Who forgives. The God of Christianity, The God of the Christian Church. Now I start by asking the question “how, in light of the demands of justice, can God forgive?” Is justice served if He simply sweeps injustice under the carpet? Indeed, can He even do so and remain just? Is there then unrighteousness with God? Can a debt owed to God go unpaid?
The answer is certainly: “No”. Yet He does. How does that work?
The key to understanding this lies in that which, at first glance, seems to rule out bare forgiveness. I have in mind that nature of God; His “Triuneness”. Now, how does the doctrine of the Trinity help? Well it does in that it provides the very foundation for His forgiveness. For it is that God is so constituted as Father, Son and Holy Ghost that allows for forgiveness. For it allows for Him to takle the penalty for sin, the just and due penalty for all sin, upon His self and to therefore satisfy the demands of justice. God can forgive us our sins, and remain just, because He has made satisfaction. He has born the penalty Himself.
Now how does that help us to forgive? A lot can be said but I would point out this: if God in His sinlessness and complete innocence is able and willing to bear the effects of sin and so forgive, should we not also be willing to suffer wrong? No doubt there are many times and situations where sin requires some sort of civil or ecclesiastical remedy but with that in place are we not still called to bear some of the burden ourselves? Are we not called to simply forgive? Are we not called to follow Christ?