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Forgive others. Not fair!
- Jacob Ninan
After all that someone has done to us, after all the suffering and pain we have gone through, isn't it unfair for anyone to suggest that we should forgive that man? The immediate response that comes to our mind may be, "You don't know what he has done to me," or "Forgive him? That's too much!" In one sense these are valid responses. Someone else's evil actions have affected us so badly, and our sense of justice cries out to say he should be punished. That's only fair! How can anyone even suggest that we should let him free?
This would be right if justice was all that we had to consider. If we take this person to the court, that is the view the court would take, and probably he will get punished for his crime. But the fact is that justice is not the only thing we have to consider. The more important question we need to face in this context is whether we are qualified or eligible to 'judge' this person. We know what happened when some people brought a woman to Jesus, asking Him for His opinion about whether she should be stoned to death for adultery as the Law of Moses said (Jn.8:2-5). Jesus answered saying those who had never sinned could throw the first stone, and everyone just slunk away (vv.7-9)! All those religious men who brought her realised in their hearts that they were sinners too!
When we come to this realisation about ourselves, all our bravado disappears, and what we imagined was our 'righteous indignation' withers away. As sinners we stand before God with the same status as these others we would like to judge. The difference in the degree of offence would hardly make any difference to the fact that we all face judgment from God.
Then comes grace. Some of us have acknowledged our sins and our sinfulness before God, and also our inability to save ourselves, and gladly received from Him the free gift of His grace, with forgiveness of our sins, regeneration of our spirit and joint heirship with Jesus the Son of God. God has exalted us far above all the other sinners in this world. But our status is as sinners who have been forgiven by grace, something we don't deserve in the least. With this status how can we lift our head and look down on anyone else, let alone judge them?
The story of the 'unforgiven' servant who could not forgive a fellow servant after being forgiven himself (Mt.18:21-35) tells us that God expects us who have been forgiven freely and graciously to show the same attitude towards others. This servant lost his forgiveness when he would not forgive another. Jesus warns us that our Heavenly Father will not forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive others (Mt.6:15).
Forgiveness starts in our heart (Mt.18:35), and when we decide to forgive others just as God has forgiven us (Ep.4:32), our emotions will begin to fall in place. God understands our struggles and supports us. But He looks for our heart to make a decision to forgive. Once we make that decision, a great release will follow.