Extreme examples of forgiveness have a way of drawing attention—even criticism—in our world. Take the Amish families who promptly forgave the murderer of their children and cared for his family, or the concentration camp victim who blessed a former S.S. officer. The world doesn’t know what to make of it.
In Luke 23:3-47, we’re given Christ’s example of forgiveness, which was to forgive the very people crucifying Him, in the moment they were carrying out the act. Every time we deny others forgiveness (or even deny forgiveness for ourselves), we set up camp on the outside of the freedom Christ came to Earth to offer.
Jesus forgave people who didn’t necessarily want forgiveness. With His forgiveness, He turned the key to our cells, but we still have to choose to walk out the door. We are to follow His example and free those who have offended us, as well. Do we wait for people to rattle the door, to cry out in brokenness, before we release them?
Where there is a lack of forgiveness, bitterness, shame, frustration, hurt and division abound. These things hold people in bondage and prevent us from becoming what God has created us to be.
When we harbor unforgiveness, we become slave drivers, self-declared masters over someone Christ died to free from all offense. We do the same to ourselves so easily when we can’t let go of our own past mistakes, and we become enemies of the cause of Christ in our lives.
But God knows we are not capable of His kind of forgiveness on our own, and He doesn’t expect us to be. Along with a demand of extravagant love, He places inside of us the power to free those who have wronged us, and to release ourselves, as well.
All we have to do is ask.
“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness, any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” – from The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom