I woke up with thoughts about someone who upset me yesterday. My head was full of stuff like: maybe she did it because….. she probably didn’t realise that….. etc etc – trying to understand the reasons behind her behaviour, trying to find reasons to excuse her. Knowing that as a Christian I should forgive her, I was looking for… the wrong stuff.
I was looking for stuff that would make her behaviour less bad, stuff that would make me say: oh, that’s ok, I now understand why you [metaphorically] trod on my toe, you didn’t mean any harm, you couldn’t have helped it, perfectly reasonable in the circumstances, anyone would have behaved the same, forget about it, it was fine really, you could do the same again and it would be ok…
But I know that this isn’t what forgiveness is about. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning their behaviour, it doesn’t necessarily require that I understand their motives, it is simply saying: you did me wrong but I choose to write that off.
And for me as a follower of Jesus, it is something I am committed to doing whether or not I understand why they trod on my toe – I am commanded to forgive others as God has forgiven me. And he has forgiven me stuff not because it was understandable, not because anyone would have done the same in my shoes, not because it wasn’t so bad really – no, he has forgiven me stuff even though it was really bad, really wrong. And so I am required to forgive without trying to understand, without looking for excuses, without searching for ways of making whatever the other person has done look less bad. I am required to forgive because I’ve been forgiven. It’s as simple as that.
P.S. When I say “simple”, I don’t mean it’s easy. My human nature fights against this whole concept – it demands justice, it wants to hurt the other person back, it feels like yelling very loudly so that everyone will see how badly I was treated. But I believe that Jesus died to take on himself the punishment that we all deserve. And he didn’t yell about how badly he was treated – he was too busy forgiving people in the middle of his suffering.