One definition of forgiveness is the intentional and purely voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense committed against them, gets rid of all negative emotions such as revenge, refuses any recompense from or punishment of the antagonist, no matter how legally or morally justified this might be and also wishes the offender well. Forgiveness is a world away from condoning, excusing, forgetting or pardoning.
Legally, forgiveness is a term for absolving or giving up all claims on account of debt, loan, obligation, or other claim.
Forgiveness has never been an easy or popular concept due to those having been wronged frequently demanding their pound of flesh. And why not? Why not indeed. One reason is that you cannot start the next chapter of your life if you keep reading the last one. Nevertheless, an ongoing, unforgiving nature is enjoyed by many who have been hurt.
Alexander Pope, in his Essay on Criticism, wrote: "To err is human: to forgive, divine." but as Christians we are told by none other than Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, that God's divine forgiveness for us is in direct proportion to the extent that we, as humans, forgive others. If we do not forgive then we are not forgiven. End of story.
Jesus taught that forgiveness is central to the relationship between God and humankind and between individual humans. When we are truly repentant then God will forgive whatever are our sins and because we are forgiven, we must in turn forgive others. Forgiveness affects not only those who have been forgiven but also those who forgive. To not forgive eventually destroys the person who will not let go as it keeps the flame of animosity alive and this burns into the inmost core of their being until all that is left is the unforgiven, unrepentant and often not even remembered grudge.
Forgiveness does not change the past but it does possess the power to change the future. To not forgive is a sin and in such a condition we are unable to be right with God. Mark Twain wrote that "Forgiveness is like the sweet scent a violet gives off when it is crushed. " Let us likewise give off the fragrant scent of forgiveness when we have been crushed.
When Peter asked how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter thought maybe seven times might be a fair limit. But Jesus said "seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22). Of course Jesus didn't mean literally 490 times, but rather that the number of times are not to be counted, not even for the same sin.
If our knowledge, trust and understanding of God is real in our lives then forgiveness of those who do us wrong becomes not just easier but also the instinctive thing to do. It means that we know that God will deal with those who do us wrong and this means that we can take our wrongdoings before God having first repented them and ask for his pardon and peace in the full knowledge that we will receive them.
God's forgiveness is God's forgetting, as once repented and forgiven our sins no longer exist in God's understanding. As Christians, when we forgive,we must also forget, for to continue to remember means we have not forgiven and neither can true forgiveness be indifference.
The one sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin of choosing to be continuously evil. Until repentance it is impossible for God to forgive as that would be like God condoning the sin.
Jesus, as always, explained clearly the reason why we should forgive others as recorded in John 8: 7. when He told those asking whether it be right to stone a woman caught in adultery. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Let those words be forever burned into our hearts and give to us a truly forgiving nature for if we dont forgive others their trespasses against us then our trespasses remain.
Let us thank God that He is not only the God of the perfect but also of the seeking; otherwise we would all be damned.