Forgiveness and the willingness to offer it is an internal peace. Before peace in the church ever occurs, the parties involved in a conflict must be resolved to forgive and so have that internal peace. The internal peace shared by the members of the church will create external peace amongst them. When we forgive others as Jesus has forgiven us and seek solutions that satisfy others’ interests as well as our own, the debris of conflict is cleared away and the door is opened for genuine peace.
The refusal to forgive creates internal conflict, also known as bitterness. When we refuse to forgive, we give “opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26-27, similarly to anger). Like a wound that is not properly cleaned and becomes infected. Part of the value of forgiveness is in spiritual, emotional, and mental self-preservation.
The parable of the unforgiving debtor is invaluable to the topic of forgiveness (Matt. 18:20-35). Jesus’ words succinctly resolve any argument against forgiving in a way that can only be attributed to inspiration. Many lessons can be brought from that parable. First, forgiveness is a gift. Second, forgiveness is a response of the heart. Forgiveness reveals more about our relationship to God than our relationship to the sinner. Third, that our offenses against God are far worse than any offense done to us. Fourth, forgiveness of debt creates a debt of forgiveness. And fifth, the strength to forgive lies in being forgiven. For me, I think the third lesson I mentioned is the biggest we forget: the offenses received in this life will not compare to the offenses we have committed against God via sin. The lack of understanding is usually the gravity of sin in God’s eyes. No act of brutality, no offense we have suffered is greater than the price Jesus paid for our forgiveness. To refuse forgiveness when a sinner repents is simply not an option. We must forgive, or we deny the power of the Cross.
The church is supposed to be in the business of forgiveness; Christians are the forgiven people and the forgiving people. Christ’s last words as recorded in Luke emphasize repentance and forgiveness, which are not present in Mark’s or Matthew’s account of Christ’s last words, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46b-47). Christ’s disciples should be characterized by his commission(s), including repentance and the forgiveness of sins. No group should be more familiar with these concepts than those who serve the Lord. Forgiveness and reconciliation should be the hallmarks of our church. The Gospel calls us to embody forgiveness, to live out personally and corporately the forgiveness that is ours in Jesus Christ–a forgiveness unmatched in the world and displayed in His death-sacrifice. That death–and Christ’s resurrection victory over death–is the focus and the power of all forgiveness.