One of my all time favorite movies is The Princess Bride, which is listed as an adventure comedy.
One of the sub plots in the movie concerns Inigo Montoya who has spent his life in pursuit of revenge on the man who killed his father. When questioned about his occupation, Inigo mentions that he has to work for Vizzini because there is “not a lot of money in the revenge business.”
These are wise words and we would do well to hear them.
As with Inigo, the pursuit of revenge or the holding of a grudge takes a lot of time and energy that could be channeled into activities that provide a higher return.
In New Testament Greek, the word that is translated forgive in English also carries the idea of letting go or sending away. I think of this process as one of giving up being offended and allowing the issue to be between God and the one I am forgiving. In other words, to forgive means that the offense is no longer something that I think about. The offense is released into the hands of God.
I certainly do not want to make the process sound easy or clean. To understand the depth of the hurt resulting from the offense is sometimes very difficult but this does not diminish the importance of pursuing the goal of forgiveness.
Some offenses are easy to forgive. The rude checker at the grocery store or the driver who cuts you off in traffic are examples that come to mind. These types of offenses are not personal in that the checker or the driver is not targeting a particular person. When the checker is rude to me, he has likely been rude to the customers before and after me. I am not the target. This makes is easier to let go.
It is the personal offenses that are not so easily forgiven. When it gets to offenses committed by loved ones, parents or authority figures, the letting go may be a more difficult process. Deep wounds are difficult to heal and a friend or counselor may be a necessary part of the process of forgiveness. But, though difficult, the process is important.
Jesus tells us how important this process is when he teaches us to pray, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) He follows this prayer up with the interesting statement,
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:14-15)
The point is that when we understand how much we’ve been forgiven, that understanding should motivate us to forgive others.
It strikes me that if forgiveness is a letting go, then it takes a measure of trust in God to let it go. If I am confident that God loves me and is in control, I can then be confident that the offense against me will not derail God’s good plan for me.
My experience shows me that this is easier to understand than to do. The concept is not difficult but the process is. I should also point out that there is a large difference between forgiveness and trust. There are people whom I have forgiven for their offenses against me that I do not trust. Forgiveness is granted but trust is earned.