Forgiveness, no matter how difficult, is God’s way, and it must be our way, too. To forgive others is difficult. We are frail, fallible and imperfect human beings. We are quick to anger and quick to pass blame, yet we are slow to forgive, and even slower to forget. I am not sure if you share the same bad habit as me, but whenever I cut myself, I find it almost impossible not to play with the scab as it heals. I always want to see just how much it has healed. Unforgiveness works similarly to a physical wounds that can fester into infections when left untreated. If we keep picking the wound open and looking at it, then it will never be able to heal, rather, because it is continually exposed to the dirty air, it becomes infected. When we are unwilling to forgive we quickly become a very bitter and unhappy person.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:32–5:2 that we are to forgive each other “just as God in Christ also has forgiven us.” Thus we cannot truly forgive others until we understand how God has forgiven us. Biblical forgiveness is costly. It cost God the death of His beloved Son. God never decided to overlook our sin or compared it to another person’s and realise it wasn’t so bad after all. Rather, our sin renders us truly guilty before God’s holy justice. We violated His holy law and He required that the penalty be paid. But in love, He sent His own Son to bear the penalty that we deserved. When as guilty sinner we repent and lay hold of Christ by faith, God graciously and totally forgives the debt of sin. He releases us from the guilt of our sin and He promises not to remember those sins against us.
When God says that He will not remember our sins any more in Hebrews 8:12; 10:17, He does not mean forget them in the sense of amnesia. Rather, He means that He will not bring up any of our offences against us in the future. We do not have to fear standing before Him someday, because there is now no condemnation for us in Christ (Romans 8:1). God has reconciled us to himself through the blood of Christ and we bear our guilt no longer!
This means that when we choose to forgive someone, we must let the matter drop. If you say that you forgive someone and then tell others about the offence, you are trying to make the offender pay, and that is not forgiveness. If you’re trying to evoke sympathy or admiration from others at the offender’s expense, that’s not forgiveness. When we forgive, we choose to drop the matter. God forgives us so that we may be reconciled to Him and enjoy a close relationship with Him. When we forgive others, we should also seek to restore the broken relationship. To say, “I forgive you, but I never want to see your ugly face again,” is not to forgive as God forgives!