Have you ever stopped to think of how incredible it was that Jesus, when he was dying, was actively forgiving people who were at that moment crucifying him? I’m ashamed that I never seemed to realize quite how incredible this really was. Have you ever been convicted that you needed to forgive someone who wouldn’t acknowledge they had sinned or maybe even were actively sinning against you? It is the hardest kind of forgiveness to practice so it does rather make sense that it is precisely what Jesus modeled from the cross.
In our daily lives we provide one another ample smallish opportunities for practicing forgiveness, and some more serious ones as well. Perhaps we need those daily little practices so that when we need to forgive the more profound varieties of hurts inflicted upon us we are that much more prepared for the absorption of the cost.
Pretend you are a sponge. Every sin committed against you can be absorbed in one of two ways. It can be kept and held onto as a grudge or it can be absorbed and then wrung out in a process called forgiveness. A sponge that is never wrung out gets over loaded, becomes ineffective as a sponge, can’t actually be properly cleaned of contamination, and eventually will stink really badly as the water and microbes do their putrefying thing. Only a sponge that is properly wrung out over and over, being washed with pure water repeatedly, will stay effective (and not excessively malodorous!)
I call forgiveness a process because, especially where hurts have been profound, it can create long-term costs that must be repeatedly absorbed and wrung out over and over again. It’s not a mere one time transaction, even when the sin is acknowledged and forgiveness is sought, though that is obviously the way in which its blessings can be best experienced. While the trauma of being profoundly sinned against may or may not have been of short duration or a singular event, the painful impacts and residual effects, even when forgiveness is going on in the heart, may reverberate for many years. Any victim of abuse that has forgiven their abuser will attest to forgiveness being a painful and costly endeavor as opposed to a one time transaction that suddenly made everything better and healed all of the broken places instantly. Think about it… if you are a sponge, allowing yourself to be wrung out over and over and over is not a pleasant experience. It is crushing. But the subsequent cleansing refreshes you as nothing else can and keeps you from bitterness, one of the hallmarks of unforgiveness.
Until we no longer sin or are sinned against we are going to have to wrestle with the costliness of forgiveness, and as Jesus said, be ready and eager to offer it again and again… and again, just as he does for us. Lord, show us our sin that we might repent and daily know the joy of being forgiven so that we might offer it as freely as you do.