“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Forgiveness is hard. It really is. This is because it goes against human nature. Human nature or instinct typically suggests that if someone hits us, we should hit back, harder. In the same vein, if someone hurts you, you should hurt them back. It is this type of mentality that permeates the world. In many cases, this mentality can be traced back to the reason for all sorts of strife in our lives, our communities or cities, and many countries across the globe. This is why Jesus’s teachings on forgiveness are hard to follow, and we can’t do it in our strength.
There is hope for you and me to learn to forgive as we look to Jesus. Jesus is the perfect model of someone who not only taught about forgiveness but actually gave the ultimate example of forgiveness. While on the cross dying, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a). He asked for forgiveness for those who put Him there. He gave us the blueprint of forgiveness.
Ultimately, forgiveness must be a spiritual muscle that we exercise so that we can grow stronger in doing it. I think this is why forgiveness is linked to our act of worship. Matthew 5:23-24 teaches us that, as we approach God in worship, He wants us to pause and check our hearts to see if we have any unforgiveness there. He can not truly or fully fill our hearts with His love if we have unforgiveness in the way.
American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said, “Forgiveness is the final form of love.” I like this statement because it reminds me that when I choose to forgive, I am showing Godly love. I am choosing to be most like my Heavenly Father when I show love to someone through forgiveness, even when I think they don’t deserve it. The apostle Paul said, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” Colossians 3:13 (NLT). Therefore, as followers of Jesus, we forgive not just because it is the right thing but because it is the God thing.
Take a moment for quiet reflection to check your heart to see if you are harboring unforgiveness against someone, and write that down in your journal. Then pray and ask God through his Holy Spirit to give you the strength to forgive that person. After that, if possible, consider a plan of action to reconcile with that person.
An excellent way to try to grasp the full meaning of the Scriptures is to compare translations. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you go out and buy a bunch of Bibles in different translations. Simply pull up the YouVersion Bible app or visit Biblegateway.com, and you can compare the translations. What new insights stand out to you after you read one or two other translations?