“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:8-12 .

When most think of the classic Francis Ford Coppola film, The Godfather, images of violence and the mafia most likely come to mind.  The movie is about revenge. The film opens with the undertaker, Bonasera, asking the Godfather to avenge the violence committed against his daughter.  In the movie, his wish for revenge is granted. There are so many movies that are built on revenge or getting even.

And no wonder. There is something sweet about getting revenge for a wrong done you. There is something about holding a grudge that seems to be the right thing to do. It makes us feel more fulfilled. After all, wrongs should be righted. And we deserve to feel anger and contempt for those who hurt us. The problem is we are the worse off for seeking revenge or holding a grudge.  I don’t think I can give a single example of any good coming out of refusing to forgive. This is why Jesus said we are to forgive one another seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). We should forgive so much that it becomes second nature—our automatic response to those who have hurt us.

God gives several good reasons in His word for why we should forgive. First, God commands us to forgive others. Matthew 18:23-25 says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

Second, it is in our best interest to forgive. Mark 11:25 says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”   And Luke 6:27 says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.

God is telling us to forgive. He is not talking about what is in the best interest of the person who needs to be forgiven. We are the ones who God is trying to protect. We are the ones who receive the most benefit from forgiveness, not the person who wronged us.  A lack of forgiveness complicates and compromises our walk with God. Forgiving others releases us from pent-up anger and allows us to receive the healing we need. God does not want anything standing between us and Him. Anything that stands between or hampers that relationship is not good for us. 

Charles Spurgeon had it right when he said: “To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, so to forgive rises a stage higher in experience than to be forgiven.”

Tomorrow: Why Should I read Philemon?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why should we forgive?
  2. What do you see as the benefits of forgiving others?
  3. What have you found helpful in forgiving those who have wronged you?
  4. How has God’s forgiveness affected your life and your willingness to forgive?
  5. Is it harder to forgive others or yourself?