Choosing Forgiveness Over Resentment
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Forgiveness, according to Wikipedia, is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as revenge, and experiences an increased ability to wish the offender well. When someone forgives another person, they are choosing to let go of resentment and choosing to repair the relationship.
In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of the importance of Christians forgiving or showing mercy towards others. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps the best-known instance of such teaching and practice of forgiveness. I’m sure you remember the story – a son abandons his father and his obligations and runs off to spend his inheritance. The son returns to his father when the money is spent, and he is quickly forgiven.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly spoke of forgiveness, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) This is a wonderful, fruit-bearing cycle – learning to be merciful, giving mercy, and then receiving mercy. And nothing is more powerful in inspiring mercy than mercy received. Here are some more scriptures to ponder:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24) Can’t get away from forgiveness, can we? Turns out to be very important.
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Luke 6:27-29) This means to me that you learn to forgive someone by praying for them and turning the other cheek.
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) If we say we are Christians, then we should follow Christ’s example and forgive others. His mercy is boundless, as ours should be as well.
Jesus asked for God's forgiveness of those who crucified him. "And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'" (Luke 23: 34) If you miss other examples in the Bible of true forgiveness, this one should really impress you.
Consider Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins," Forgiveness is not an option for a Christian; rather one must forgive to be a Christian.
These Scriptures should be enough to remind us of the reasons to let go of resentment, and forgive others. The main reason, of course, is that God first forgave us!