...forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6: 12).
Have you ever heard someone say: “I know God can forgive, but I can’t” ? The underlying problem of this thought is that we consider ourselves a higher court than God. While acknowledging that God can forgive, we imply that our standards are higher than God’s when it comes to forgiveness. This is a failure to grasp what is really at the heart of the Gospel. Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India (1867 -1951), once said: “If I say, ‘Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,’ as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” God can not only empower us to forgive, but also wash away slowly and gradually memories of wrong done to us as we grow in our understanding the heart of the Gospel. The memories of wrong done to us may not be easily and completely forgotten, because memories tend to haunt us. But love “keeps no record of wrongs” (I Cor. 13: 5), and grace is powerful and transformational. Understanding the Gospel of grace is a life-long process. There is hope for you.
Perhaps C. S. Lewis is most helpful for you. He writes about the problem of forgiveness:
. . . you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.
As regards my own sin it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought.
But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says. (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory -New York: Harper Collins, 2001;
Originally published 1949, p.181-183.)
Fallen human relationships are hard. They take time, nurture, care, commitment and a God-kind of love to make it mature. We cannot claim to know the forgiveness of our sins when we cannot forgive the trespasses of others. When we sin against God, we say: “Forgive me Jesus.” But when others sin against us, our nature is to respond in kind. God’s love accepts and embraces all short-comings, without approving the sin. Christ does this perfectly. He showed grace, and not condemnation (Romans 8: 1). Grace-centered people give grace to those that are most undeserving, because Christ has done the same to them. God forgives! To love is to forGIVE. God so loved the world that He gave! (John 3: 16). God loves unreservedly and gives it unconditionally. That’s called Grace! Grace gives ceaselessly. It knows no bounds while it approves no sin (Romans 6: 1). God has shown that same grace to undeserving sinners like us for eternity.
Grace is the most transformational word in Scripture, as Paul Trip writes on The Gospel Coalition blog:
Grace is a transforming tool and a state of relationship. Grace is a theology and an invitation. Grace is an experience and a calling. Grace will turn your life upside down while giving you a rest you have never known. Grace will convince you of your unworthiness without ever making you feel unloved.
Grace will make you acknowledge that you cannot earn God’s favor, and it will remove your fear of not measuring up to his standards. Grace will confront you with the fact that you are much less than you thought you were, even as it assures you that you can be far more than you had ever imagined. Grace will put you in your place without ever putting you down.
Grace will enable you to face truths about yourself that you have hesitated to consider, while freeing you from being self-consciously introspective. Grace will confront you with profound weaknesses, and at the same time introduce you to new-found strength. Grace will tell you what you aren’t, while welcoming you to what you can now be. Grace will make you as uncomfortable as you have ever been, while offering you more comfort than you have ever known. Grace will drive you to the end of yourself, while it invites you to fresh starts and new beginnings. Grace will dash your hopes but never leave you hopeless. Grace will decimate your kingdom as it introduces you to a better King. Grace will expose your blindness as it gives you eyes to see. Grace will make you sadder than you have ever been, while it gives you greater cause for celebration than you have ever known.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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.” (Ephesians 2: 4-9).
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.