Theology Thursday: Should I Forgive My Fellow Man?

couple showing love and forgiveness by holding hands

We live in a curious time. Many people around the world are reminding us of grievous offenses committed toward others, offering solutions that sometimes include drastic measures. It seems the solution of forgiveness is at the bottom of the list, even in the church.

However, this comes with a catch. Unforgiveness comes with a hook. Grudges freeze individuals in their tracks. “But,” the offended party might object, “What about….?” The list of “What abouts” is endless. Some of them include “What about fairness?” “What about justice?” “What about retribution?” For the Christian, these are answered by scripture, specifically Colossians 3:13 where we are told to forgive each other-period. For the sake of argument, let’s look at the “What abouts.”

What About Fairness?

Usually fairness is according to our own standards. In this process, we immediately face two problems. These include how we define fairness and how this offense might be rectified. Our solutions usually include our standard based on the pain inflicted and attitudes toward the offender. However, Jesus provided the Christian a very different standard. Colossians 3:13 tells us we are to forgive each other based on the forgiveness Jesus gave us. Was the cross fair? Absolutely not! If you were to ask Jesus when he was in the garden sweating blood, I am not sure “fair” would have been his first thought. He was about to pay our debt.

What About Justice?

Like fairness, justice can live on our own slippery slope. If we are the offenders, we usually think of the proverbial “slap on the wrist.” After all, we didn’t mean to hurt anyone. However, when we are the offended, we think of the harshest punishment possible. Again, the standard for the Christian is to forgive. This often is not easy. Some offenses can create searing pain and forgiveness is almost unthinkable. However, Christians have no escape clause. We are to put on a heart of love (Colossians 3:14).

What About Retribution?

Retribution says, “Somebody has to pay.” In many cases, this involves a grave injustice and there is no sense of accountability. Throughout history, we have committed much injustice with no perceived retribution. Christian, here is a simply stated principle: “Revenge is ugly graffiti all over the grace of God.” (Kindall, 2009, p. 124). Retribution involves vengeance, which is God’s purview (Romans 12:19). Jesus took care of all retribution, regardless of the severity. We need to obey his command to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love (Colossians 3:12, 14). Problem solved.

So How Do We Live?

Jesus gave us the most marvelous gift imaginable by providing us with forgiveness. We could never repay that debt, but for the Christian, it is paid in full. Unforgiveness is a relentless taskmaster, never letting its victim off the hook. Jesus took us off the hook himself by providing the complete solution to the problem of sin. I encourage you to accept that solution and get off the hook, living in Christ’s freedom.

Grand Canyon University has been training Christians in ministry since its inception. If you are interested in pursuing a career in ministry, GCU's College of Theology has many degree programs, including Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry, Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Christian Ministry.

References

Kindall, J. (2009). Free Yourself to Love. Faith Words.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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