Summary: They say "To err is human and to forgive divine"...a lot of truth in this statement. It really takes the power of The Lord to help us truly forgive one another.
Mark 2:7-11 (Wey) "Why does this man use such words?" they said; "He is blaspheming. Who can pardon sins but One--that is, God?"... Jesus asked them, "Which is easier?--to say to this paralytic, 'Your sins are pardoned,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your mat, and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to pardon sins"--He turned to the paralytic, and said, "To you I say, 'Rise, take up your mat and go home.'"
Mat 6:12 (TEB) "Forgive us the wrongs that we have done, as we forgive the wrongs others have done us."
Luke 6:37 (NIV) "...Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
Mat 6:14-15 (NIV) "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
• Assuming the teaching of Mat 6:15 and other such verses is understood and acknowledged as true, rather than emphasize the need to forgive in this Bible study--i.e., the law--we will instead look at five cheap substitutes or impediments to forgiveness, and then at what real forgiveness is, how to attain it, and how to remain in it. And we may find that forgiveness is more difficult, and more easy, than we first thought.
Sin Is Only Human...
• What is natural to "the flesh" (the carnal nature) when we have been hurt or abused or insulted is to strike back, to plot revenge, or to simmer in bitterness. This is "only human". But God requires forgiveness, else He will NOT forgive us. If we are unwilling--or unable--to forgive, then there is no use asking God for what He has told us He will not give. For believers, dealing with the sin of unforgiveness is first priority.
Mark 11:25 (NIV) "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
• As a way to test the veracity of the following points, let us consider forgiveness in the most radical sense we can. Think of something truly wicked that has been done to you or someone you love, not by accident or error but deliberately and with malice--where you have come right up against evil and the pain caused by it in your own emotions.
1) What Forgiveness Is Not: Play Acting For Show...
• Remember when as a child you were forced by some adult to "forgive" someone who was first forced to "say sorry" to you? Is this really repentance by the perpetrator... or forgiveness by the victim? Well, perhaps so--in a few rare cases. But let us be honest and acknowledge that this charade by children is more often a temporary cessation of hostilities for the sake of the grown-ups, with the full intent to do more of the same violence (and not get caught) and/or get revenge later--when beyond the adult's watchful eye.
• Adults force children through this ritual because strife in a family or group of kids is an unbearable pain; and they want to teach. Play-acting does give at least a temporary reprieve. But God's pain is more acute when He sees our strife with each other, and His solution aims a little deeper than mere words or mimicry or delay or coating over. For He is aiming not at hypocritical play-acting, but at truth from the inside out.
• This childish pantomime of "forgiveness" often carries into adulthood as a superficial substitute for the real thing. We think by "saying so", it is so. But is God fooled by such? Is there ever a place where we can escape His penetrating gaze? Does He not see the secret meditation of revenge or the bitter hatred behind the nice smile? Since when is He impressed with mere words when hearts do not match?
Mark 7:6 (Phi) Jesus replied, "You hypocrites, Isaiah described you beautifully when he wrote: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.' These teachings are but rules made by men."
2) Is Denial Forgiveness?
• The inability to really forgive is often due to a false concept that "forgetting is forgiving". Forgetting is NOT forgiving. To be sure, if we forgive we will forget as a result. But the reverse is not true: forgetting is not forgiving--it is denial.
Ps 51:6 (NAS) Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being...
• If we attempt to achieve a bogus forgiveness by deliberately putting "out of mind" the offense, we might be fooling ourselves and others that we have "forgiven". But all of the emotions and plots and hurt are still there--only held back by force of will in deliberated denial. But then we see "that person" again and all the bitterness and pain rise up again within us. Or, in the off moment--when such mental gymnastics cannot be maintained--we catch ourselves in an elaborate meditation of revenge or fit of rage and anger. Then we see just how deep and effective this sort of "forgiveness" is.