“…unless you forgive your brother from your heart…” – Matt. 18:35b
It’s easy to reflexively think of forgiveness as a sort of one-shot deal, where you say some magic words and everything is fixed and fine.
But what about those times when you say the words, but your heart keeps churning afterwards? Does that mean you didn’t really forgive from the heart? Maybe it’s not as simple as that.
If forgiveness was just some set of magic words that fixed everything at once, then would that even be worth anything? To me, “from the heart” implies there is a degree of work involved, and that I must choose to be forgiving of the other person, not just flip some emotional switch. After all, different offenses cause different levels of hurt and carry different consequences, so wouldn’t it make sense that they would also require different levels of forgiveness? I think so.
In fact, I think that maybe forgiveness is a lot like love. I can’t just say some words once and be done with it, it is not a moment in time or a feeling of the heart, but rather a road you choose to walk. It is a series of choices, a commitment, a decision that I will choose each day to walk in a spirit of forgiveness, to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, not because they’ve earned it yet (though I certainly hope they would be trying), but because I make a decision of the will. This means that the greater offense and the deeper the hurt, the longer the road will be. But, if I truly mean it when I say “I forgive you”, then I will choose each day to love and to forgive like Jesus until the road ends when I am truly free in the Spirit.
We would all hope that the other person would understand the depth of our hurt and would try their best to make restitution and earn back our trust, and those that do these things are precious indeed and not to be let go of quickly, but more often than not we must simply give it to God and release it, for it is only through His grace, not the actions of others, that we can truly be free.
Lord, today I choose to walk the road of forgiveness. Help me walk it well.