This was a topic that came up during youth group last night. One of the teens questioned whether or not we should forgive someone who has hurt us, especially someone who has hurt us badly. The answer is clear:
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. – Matthew 6:14-15, NASB
The point is a simple one. When we sin, we sin against God. Only God can forgive us as a result. God offers us forgiveness, even though we don’t deserve it. God offers forgiveness out of His own great love for us. And He expects us to reflect Him in all aspects of our life. We are supposed to be trying to be more like Him. And that includes on the forgiveness part. So if God can forgive us for crimes so great that we deserve death and so ugly that we cannot enter into His presence without Jesus as mediator, is there anything that a person can do to us that we shouldn’t forgive? Not when I put it like that, right? But that’s really the condition we are in. Without Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we’re the criminals who cannot approach the King. And there’s nothing we can do about it. Yet God Himself intervened, sacrificed Himself, offered us mercy as a result, and now we can approach the King with a clean record and call Him “Daddy.” Think about that turn of events for a minute. So why can’t we forgive?
Usually it’s because we’re focusing on our own hurt. We’re focusing on us. It’s easy to do, especially if the hurt is deep. In those cases it may be nearly impossible to see beyond the hurt. That’s something I was trying to convey last night, but I don’t know how successful I was. The key to moving past the hurt and to focusing on forgiveness is to turn our eyes upon Christ.
“Behold, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you; and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed. Now, my father, see! Indeed, see the edge of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the edge of your robe and did not kill you, know and perceive that there is no evil or rebellion in my hands, and I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it.
“May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you.
– 1 Samuel 24:10-12, NASB
In this set of Scriptures, David has confronted Saul. This is the first opportunity David had to take care of Saul since David had fled from Saul’s presence. Saul was hunting David, for Saul wanted David dead. And David had the perfect opportunity. He was able to slip up on Saul and even take a piece of Saul’s robe off. So for a fighting man like David, Saul would have been easy pickings had David decided to take Saul’s life. He didn’t. And notice when he talks to Saul, who he keeps talking about: the Lord. David wasn’t going to raise his hand against Saul. After all, God had once had Saul anointed. And David was going to leave it God to take care of Saul, if need be. We can imagine how David might have felt. After all, this was a guy who had tried to kill him. Not only had Saul tried to kill David, but he had tried to kill his own son and David’s best friend, Jonathan. David had good reason to be hurt, angry, and vengeful. David let all of that go and he forgave. He had to have in order to come to Saul in this manner. And he did so by focusing on God.
That’s a lesson for us, too. We are a people who have embraced God’s forgiveness when we accepted His Son, Jesus. Too often in the world around us forgiveness is a sign of weakness. But in God’s eyes it’s a sign of great strength. It means resisting emotions that would lead us towards sin. It means choosing to go against our sinful flesh. And it means treating the other person better than he or she treated us. When we forgive, we stand out. We cause others to take notice. And when they see us acting with forgiveness, they see our Savior, because that’s what He did for us. Sometimes that forgiveness is brutally hard to do. If we’ve been hurt deeply and painfully, then we may have a hard time looking past that hurt. But that’s when we need to turn our eyes upon the Lord. We need to look upon Him just as David did. And in doing so, we will find the ability to forgive, for we will be reminded of the forgiveness that was granted to us in the first place.