I am always cautious about making big blanket statements. Most of the time when we do that we unfairly group something or someone into that statement, and by doing so we make our own statement false. Having said that I am going to make one of those statements here: Offering true Biblical forgiveness to those who offend us is the most difficult reaction we can live out as human beings. In fact, it's so difficult that without the Holy Spirit living in us and enabling us to do so, it is impossible. I believe that is why Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Its important for us as Bible readers to get statements like this correct. What Jesus is not saying is that we can earn forgiveness by offering forgiveness to others. At first glance someone might read it that way, but understanding scripture as a whole clearly teaches us we can’t earn forgiveness. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.” So, having that understanding, Jesus is saying in Matthew 6:14-15 that our offering forgiveness to others proves we have been forgiven. It is evidence that the Holy Spirit lives in us. The truth of this is that there will not be unforgiving people in heaven. One of the attributes that will accompany God's children is that they will be a people who forgive those who offend them.
Now that we have established the facts about our need in showing true Biblical forgiveness to others, we must answer this question: What does offering true Biblical forgiveness look like? The greatest example of this can be seen in Jesus Christ. As he hung on a cross dying a criminal’s death in which he was completely innocent, he said this of the people who put him there, as we read in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is the example we must go to every time we question in what manner should our forgiveness to others look like.
True Biblical forgiveness is not simply calling a truce. We can easily think we are being holy by deciding not to pick the fight, but when we go back to our example we can understand that’s not it. Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t just call a truce with our offense towards him? He moved toward us in a means of reconciliation not simply as a truce. His death didn’t just call an end to the fight, but brought us into the family as children of God.
Also, there is no room in Biblical forgiveness for us to harbor ill will toward the other party. We are lying to ourselves in a dangerous way when we say we forgive someone, but wish deep down that they would suffer. Wishing others ill will is a sure sign that we have not truly forgiven someone. Again, we go back to our example, and we see that Jesus so completely forgives us that he not only doesn’t wish us ill will, but that he offers us abundant life (John 10:10). When we have truly forgiven others, we will not seek revenge (Romans 12:19). We will not look for ways to lay a trap for them (1 Thessalonians 5:15). We will not rejoice in their calamities ( Proverbs 24:17). We will pray for them (Matthew 5:44). We will seek reconciliation (Romans 12:18). We will always be willing to come to their relief (Exodus 23:4).
The hard part of forgiving others has nothing to do with the others, rather everything to do with you. It is the same reason only a few will go through the narrow gate. It’s about dying to yourself and dying to your pride. It’s not about whether you deserve to be mad at them. You might very well be justified in your assessment that they don’t deserve to be forgiven. But a Christian will go back to the great example, and understand they didn’t deserve to be forgiven by God. I encourage you to act out the miracle that happened to you on the day God saved you by showing those around you true Biblical forgiveness. God Bless!