When Forgiveness Doesn’t Come Easy

By Lesley Cheesman

I had often wondered why people struggle to forgive – particularly those they love. It had been for me a simple matter of shrugging off any hurt caused by another person and telling them that it’s okay. No matter. 

That was until the day I was deeply wounded by someone. Someone I loved dearly. Someone I thought should have known better. 

Not only was the wound painful and in fact life-changing, the experience of struggling to forgive was bewildering.  

In the accounts of Jesus’ life in the Bible (the books known as the gospels), we see woven through the life and teachings of Jesus that forgiveness is central to what it means to follow him.  It’s how Christians make sense of our broken world and see anything of beauty emerge.  As I ponder the question, ‘What does it look like to live as a follower of Jesus?’ a big part of the answer has to do with forgiveness. 

In many ways it’s simple to understand the principles of forgiveness, but in practice it is deeply personal and often challenging.  The lack of it destroys relationships but the presence of it brings hope and healing and life.  As a person who has received God’s forgiveness, I have a choice to live amongst others in a way that demonstrates his unconditional loveBut is this a choice I am willing to make? 

Read Matthew 5: 7-16  

The life Jesus describes in these verses is a challenging one.  Christians are to be people of mercy and peacemaking, willing to endure undeserved insults and persecution for his sake.  These things are painful and costly.  

What does it look like to be ‘salt and light’ in this kind of context?  How does this go beyond simply being ‘nice’ to the people around us? 

As people who have received forgiveness from Jesus himself (on an epic scale), this makes Christians distinctive.  As we choose to live out that forgiveness, it’s surprising.  Indeed it confounds people to be on the receiving end of such grace – deserved or otherwise. 

 Read John 8:1-12 

Jesus is demonstrating this kind of love and forgiveness as he encounters the situation with the woman caught in adultery. 

As the crowd left the scene scratching their heads, what do you think struck them?  About the woman? About themselves?  About Jesus?  About the nature of forgiveness? 

Jesus gives a clear demonstration of the values of his Kingdom as he declares that the adulterous woman is not condemned by him.   In doing so he frees her to go and live her life quite differently from that point, should she choose to.   

Living as people who ask for forgiveness and who offer it readily can be a very practical glimpse of the power of the gospel. 

The world says forgiveness must be deserved or earned. But we must live our lives differently. It is not easy.  But God can change us and the people around us through even the most painful moments of life.   

We are representatives of the one who has authored the possibility of forgiveness for all: Jesus, light of the world. Ask God to give you the opportunity to introduce someone to the profound forgiveness he has on offer.