Christian forgiveness is a noble and godly concept which has been born of God. From the fall of man, God had a plan to bring mankind back to himself and to restore the broken relationship between God and man.
He based this magnificent plan on a unique attitude and emotion which is forgiveness. God might have chosen this attitude as a way to show us that he knows our human nature.
We learn this from the earliest history of man in the book of Genesis, that God made man in his own image and later in the New Testament that he wanted us to use his life of forgiveness. Our nature is different from God’s nature especially when it comes to forgiveness.
Unlike God, when we are wronged and know we have done nothing to deserve such harsh treatment from the offender, we usually begin to think of retaliation.
We would like punishment to be administered to those responsible and in the same strength or force. And that, humanly speaking, we would call justice.
That is what the law of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and wound for wound”, meant in the Old Testament Ex 21:24. It is a law which stressed the proportion that must exist between the punishment and the offence.
During the time of Jesus, the spiritual leaders of Israel taught that man was capable of forgiving his or her offender, though within a certain limit. Some advised to forgive at least once, others twice and others thrice.
They did not think that man would have the courage to go beyond that limit at which they thought punishment was both obligatory and the proper treatment.
When Jesus started teaching about forgiveness, those who were listening to him got the first impression that he was asking too much from human nature. He wanted his followers to forgive as he was doing; yet he was the forgiving atonement for man’s sin.
How could human beings who wished to follow his style of life strive to continue his excellent tradition of forgiving one another as he was saying?
His apostles knew that this was a hard teaching but worthy of trying, and they continued to pass it on: “Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ” Ephesians 4:32.
For the sake of clarity, Jesus elaborated his teaching on forgiveness with a parable as he did always. He told the parable of the two debtors: A man is pardoned an enormous sum.
That same day this wicked and heartless man meets a colleague who owes him a few coins and seizes him by the throat.
He had him imprisoned immediately and without any sign of mercy; Matt 18,23ff. Here Jesus stresses the fact that we have a great debt with God and he forgives us.
That way we too should be ready to forgive the offences that other people commit against us. According to Jesus, pardon has to be endless. The apostles found this to be strange and well beyond the limit and logic of the Jewish law.
This explains the surprised reaction of Peter as he asks his Master: But do you mean to say that we must forgive always and every time?”
Jesus has the same answer of us: pardon is infinite, and we better take heed, because every thing initiated by God is always in our best interest.
Jesus openly forgave sins while he walked on earth, demonstrating that he had the power of God to judge, but chose to extend Christian forgiveness instead. And this is the example.
Today, our psychologists do agree with Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness and they do help us to accept the same teaching whole heartedly.
These specialists in human behaviour look at forgiveness as a process of ceasing to feel resentment, indignation, anger, perceived offence, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.
Then they tell us that even from purely psychological point of view, forgiveness is a method of reaching a state of emotional healing. It is a method worthy trying since it restores one’s serenity, mental health and spiritual freedom.