Divine Forgiveness

“I have often said, ‘I forgive you,’ but even as I said these words my heart remained angry or resentful. I still wanted to hear the story that I was right after all; I still wanted to hear apologies and excuses; I still wanted the satisfaction of receiving some praise in return—if only the praise for being so forgiving!

But God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything of itself, a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking. It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life. It calls me to keep stepping over all my arguments that say forgiveness is unwise, unhealthy, and impractical. It challenges me to step over all my needs for gratitude and compliments. Finally, it demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and the one whom I am asked to forgive. . . . Only when I remember that I am the Beloved Child can I welcome those who want to return with the same compassion as that with which the Father welcomes me” (Henri Nouwen).

As I’ve heard it said, forgiveness is releasing the other person from the expectation that they can make it right where they’ve wronged you. It’s not enabling them to keep doing the same or other hurtful things to you. It’s opening the prison door of bitterness only to realize that you were the one inside who needed freeing.

The Bible says that as you forgive others, God will forgive you. It’s that plain and simple. Of course, God’s initial forgiveness allows even the possibility for you to forgive others. But still we are called to forgive . . .

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