I see often in God’s economy the concept that we cannot extend something that we ourselves don’t have. I think of the fruit of the Spirit. I can love in a pure and holy way, because God first loved me. I can extend unconditional love because I have experienced it. I have joy through the presence of God, and I can share that joy with others. Because God puts peace in my heart, I can deal with others with peace, etc…. Grace also works this way. When I have known the grace of God, then I can extend grace to others. Without having experienced His grace, I have nothing to offer. And I can only offer these things to the extent that I have experienced them.
I have the full forgiveness of God through the cross of Jesus Christ. He looks at me through His righteousness. I do not deserve this. I did not earn this. It is only because of His great love, that I can experience forgiveness. And because I have known the depth of His forgiveness, I can forgive myself and extend this forgiveness to others.
God’s forgiveness takes into account that we are “but dust.” (Psalm 103:14). His forgiveness takes into account that we are born of Adam and have an innate sin nature. (Romans 5:14-21). This perfect forgiveness realizes that we are unable to be perfect and to save ourselves. (Romans 3:23). This forgiveness had to be bought through the shedding of blood. (Genesis 3:21). God’s forgiveness covers all transgressions, and it took all of Jesus’ blood to forgive even the smallest sin.
The receiving of forgiveness takes great humility. It is as we kneel at the cross asking for this forgiveness, that we realize the depravity of own heart and the grace and mercy of God.
Once we have knelt thus, and experienced the full forgiveness of God, we can then, and must, forgive those who transgress against us. Only when we have seen our own heart and God’s amazing ability and willingness to forgive us, do we have the ability to forgive others. When we choose not to forgive someone, we are in essence, standing in judgment and saying that God’s forgiveness is not enough for that individual, and this is a lie.
A side note: Forgiveness does not mean that we have to go back into a relationship with the person who continues to abuse. Forgiveness does not lessen the hurt of the others’ action or the consequences. Forgiveness is deciding that I will no longer hold the other person responsible for a debt that I feel they owe me because of their actions toward me. Feelings take a while to follow behind this decision of the will. But God calls us to forgive, that we might truly know His forgiveness.
May you know the power of the cross through the forgiveness of God, and may He grant you the ability to forgive yourself and all others who have hurt you.