Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
So many of the most important truths of what God expects of us are modeled to us by God Himself, and forgiveness is a core part of our relationship with Him. Living in our sinful world, we’re going to mess up and hurt someone else, intentionally or unintentionally, and other people are going to hurt us. We’re going to offend and make wrong choices, and we’re going to be on the receiving end of those things, as well. And God forgives us of our sins, so we can and should forgive others. Forgiveness, both giving and receiving it, are necessary to maintain right relationships.
Forgiveness is, first of all, a process. Someone has to know that they’ve done something wrong. Once they are aware of it, they can then repent and be forgiven. Sometimes we have to take the hard step of letting someone know that what they’ve done was wrong and hurtful to us, but it’s not so we can condemn them for it, but so we can forgive them. When we sin against God and His Spirit convicts us or His Word tells us we’ve done wrong, that awareness of our sin hopefully leads us to repent, and then God faithfully forgives us.
Forgiveness is to be perpetual. It must be repeated for every offense. There is no limit on how many times a person can be forgiven. In fact, we are expected to and should be willing to forgive someone else every time they repent. That can sometimes be the hardest thing, to endure offenses over and over. We are easily wearied, and our patience wears thin. But isn’t God longsuffering with us? He endures all of our offenses, but He is willing to forgive as many times as necessary. True love forgives every time a heart cries out for mercy.
Finally, forgiveness is personal. It is between the involved parties and doesn’t need to go beyond that. Too easily it can become gossip if too many people get involved. Too easily it can be complicated by other people’s opinions or taking sides. But in God’s plan, the offender and the offended deal with it, and then it is done and over. In the same way, we can go directly to God Himself and receive forgiveness for our sins. No one else needs to be involved. No one else needs to mediate. We simply go to Him and confess our sin, and He forgives. So, for our own good and the benefit of others, may we have a forgiving heart, remembering that we ourselves have been forgiven much by our merciful God.