What is forgiveness?

When I first became a Christian I was perplexed by the Scripture verses in Matthew 18:21-22, ““Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”” (NLT).

I didn’t know for sure what was meant by “forgive someone”—does that mean we pretend that nothing ever happened? What if the person justified the actions and was not really sorry for what happened? Should I still forgive?

When I was 5-years-old, my older half-brother, age 15, started to molest me. He did this until I was about 7-years-old. My mother married my stepfather and he started to molest me when I was 9-years-old—this lasted until I was 13-years-old.

My half-brother and my stepfather never asked to be forgiven; in fact, my half-brother justified what he did—“brothers and sisters do these things.” How could I forgive that?

As I continued to read my Bible, I discovered another Scripture verse: “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive” (Luke 17:3-4).

The words, “believer,” “repentance,” and “asks forgiveness” jumped out at me– these passages really didn’t apply to my situation.

Then I read Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Does this mean that if I don’t forgive these two that God will not forgive me? But how could I forgive someone who didn’t even ask for forgiveness?

Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Even though there was no remorse from these two, I had to forgive them. To me, this meant I had to release the anger and hurt that I felt. If I held on to the anger then it would slowly kill me, and I wouldn’t be able to fully worship God because I would have this ugly thing between Him and me.

It wasn’t easy to forgive. It took many years of anguished prayers, but one day I realized that I no longer had anger or hurt. I knew then that God had healed me, and in my heart I had forgiven them. Maybe one day they will turn their lives over to God and He will forgive them too. God is good!

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti
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