The Grace of Forgiveness
I was thinking last night about forgiveness. I wondered last night if there is a difference between how society defines it and how we define it as Christians. When we say that forgiveness is a means of grace for the one who has been hurt, why is that?
Merriam Webster says that forgiveness is "to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)." Its origin is Middle English, from Old English forgifan, from for- + gifan. Gifan is "to give." The dictionary says that synonyms for forgiveness are the verbs pardon and excuse.
I think we have this ingrained belief, just like Merriam Webster, that to forgive is the same as to excuse. Do we believe that if we forgive someone, that we are saying, "It's OK."? We think that we have to rationalize the wrong or reduce the sin in our minds. Do we think that when we forgive, we are saying that the consequences of the wrong don't matter?
I think that the grace of forgiveness can be seen in the entomology of the word. "To give." When we forgive, we give it to God. We give Him the pain, the hurt, the resentment and the anger. We release it. God takes it. When we forgive, we allow God to release us from that which is hurting us. In the process, we take control away from the person who has hurt us.
I think we resist this because we think that we are controlling all of those negative emotions, and to give them up to God is to give up that control. Actually, truthfully, when we fail to forgive, we are allowing the one who has or who is hurting us to keep control.
Notice the difference, though. Notice that when we consider that the grace of forgiveness is the ability to give up the pain of the hurt to God, that our actions in forgiving someone do not involve that person at all. Forgiveness involves two "people." The one who is forgiving and God. It is unrelated to the one we say is being forgiven.
Forgive, and release yourself from the power of the one who has hurt you. Forgive, and give that power to God. Forgive, and receive grace.