Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
~ Luke 23:34
I wonder what the consensus would be, if a group of people who claim to be Christian, were to be asked these two questions: “Are we supposed to forgive people who have not asked for forgiveness?” and, “Are we capable of harboring an unforgiving attitude to someone who is no longer here?”
As Christians, we often pray the Lord’s Prayer, from Matthew 6:9-13. When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, He gave them this example. One of the lines is, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In plain terms this means, we want God’s forgiveness, and in turn we need to forgive those who sin against us.
We only need to look at the example of forgiveness, which Jesus showed. It is after His likeness, we need to strive to obtain. He was in pain, and agony, dying unjustly in a brutal manner, yet He takes a moment to utter these words, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” These murderers were not coming to the foot of the cross, asking for forgiveness, yet Christ was pleading their case to the Almighty Father.
To the first question, “Should we grant pardon to people who have not asked for forgiveness?” the answer is, yes. It brings us no value or compensation, other than a bitter heart, when we hold an unforgiving attitude. It is best to release it to God. We do not have to put ourselves in a volatile situation, but we can still have a forgiveness that brings us peace. Why torture ourselves twice, once for the wrong that was inflicted on us, and second for the hostile seed growing inside, which robs us of our joy?
To the second question, “Is it possible to hold resentment, to someone who is no longer here?” the answer is, yes! Unfortunately I have done that. I was angry at someone who gave up on life. It took me quite some time to realize that my anger was a form of an unforgiving heart. I had to go to the Lord, and seek His forgiveness, and I had to yield my pardon to that person, even though I could not speak or see that person anymore. It was just a resignation of a stance of bitterness, replaced by God’s peace.
Jesus said we should forgive over and over again. Out of His ultimate love for us, he bestowed compassion and grace, not after we cleaned up our act, but while we were sinners. When someone has passed a hurtful judgment on us, instead of seeking revenge, we need to seek the Lord, and tap into His spring of mercy and pardon. When we forgive anyway, we are exonerated from our own bondage of painful resentment.
Dear Father, Help me, in your power, to forgive those who have wronged me. In Christ I pray, Amen.
~ Jenny Calvert