“Before judgment comes, examine yourself;
and at the time of scrutiny you will find forgiveness.”
— SIRACH 18:20 (NRSV)
FORGIVENESS IS a very personal need for each and every one of us. There’s no getting around it. Perhaps we can see how easy it is to forgive another person – one who’s wronged us – when we can see our own need of forgiveness before a holy God. Everyone has a pressing need, an unconscious undertow, for forgiveness.
For those of us who find it difficult to forgive – who hold on to a hurt – to the injustices meted out against us – this is a sure-fire method, bound to work, time after time, and also in the ultimate sense.
When we begin the process of self-examination the eyes of our hearts stand to be opened:
What the LORD teaches about forgiveness can’t be quantified,
But what the LORD teaches is the need to self-examine,
For within our forgiving of them and the extension of our grace,
We’ll not experience a state where our blessing comes upon a famine.
Forgiving the other party is only the first half of the transaction – the second half – the important half, so far as God’s concerned, regarding our relationship with him – is fundamental to the achievement of the experience of having forgiven them.
As we examine ourselves – before God’s judgment comes against us (for those who insist on withholding forgiveness will be judged for it) – God tips into us knowledge for growth; and such growth unto eventual blessing. As we take the spotlight off them and focus it onto our own mess, failures and shortcomings, God shows us empathy for them; he reminds us we, too, are a fallen creature just like they are. In that process we find God forgiving us as we forgive the other party we’ve had a grudge against.
There are plenty of Scripture passages, especially in the New Testament, that talk about the matters of being able to repent and forgive as being signs that we have God’s Holy Spirit in us. Let’s not put our relationship with God at jeopardy by continuing to bear bitterness and resentment.
Forgiveness works best when we commit to doing our own work, forgetting the transgressions of the other as much as possible. We should want God to do a work in us, and, by his doing so, he will give us the grace to forgive – each time and in the ultimate sense. It’s not hard to forgive when we really want to.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.