Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.”

Forgiveness is priceless – it comes at a high cost, but it cannot be purchased; forgiveness is freely given and solely based on grace.

Ever since there is offense, there is a need to forgive. We cannot demand forgiveness, nor can we expect it from anyone, but here is what an unforgiving attitude accomplishes: absolutely nothing. If anything, not forgiving a person makes a bad situation worse.

Everyone gets hurt at some point, which is why we all need to learn how to deal with pain. In medical terms, a festered wound can cause blood poisoning. An unforgiving heart has the power to poison our life in the same way a festering wound poisons our body. Not forgiving a person is really not a healthy option for us. We hurt ourselves the most if we refrain from doing so.

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean we have to let the person who hurt us back into our lives. The process of forgiveness is no one-size-fits-all approach. While it is big of us to say the three freeing words: “I forgive you”, we know there is a lot more to it. Sometimes the person who hurt us never comes to apologize. Sometimes the person who hurt us is dead. Sometimes we even have a hard time forgiving ourselves. That is why we cannot depend on human beings for forgiveness. We need divine intervention.

Checks and balances only work for bank accounts, not for people. We do not arrive at forgiveness by inflicting as much pain as was dished out to us. The freedom associated with forgiveness lies in the power of letting go and this very act will start the healing process.

Jesus was hurt beyond repair on the cross. A lot of resentment and ill will brought Him there. Even though He was physically nailed to a tree, internally He was free. His mind was unclouded by anger. He forgave everyone involved and that includes us. “What does that mean?” you may ask. “I wasn’t there when it happened. I did not kill Jesus. He does not have to forgive me for a crime I haven’t committed.” While this is true – historically speaking we were not present when Jesus was killed – still the event of the cross addresses all of humanity. Jesus died for the forgiveness of all sins, which is wonderful news because we all are in need of forgiveness at some point in our lives.

Extending forgiveness is every bit as difficult as obtaining it – because pain is no easy process; it seems we best deal with past hurts on the road to compassion. Jesus has traveled this very road; in fact He represents the road map to forgiveness. He will help us sort through our issues and get past our anger. When we trust in Jesus we experience what freedom means. No longer bound by past hurt, we have the opportunity to mature into kind human beings.

Proverbs 17:9: “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”

Since my husband Bill and I moved into our new home we have a so-called “Arizona room”, which is basically a patio with walls and a roof. After I decided to pick up painting again we turned our Arizona room into an art studio. Working on a painting, perfectionism can drive me absolutely crazy sometimes. Meanwhile, I have learnt to let go. If I didn’t, none of my artwork would see completion.

I believe the Lord Almighty is the greatest artist of all, and in His eyes each human being is an original masterpiece. Yes, we are a masterpiece, by no means perfect, since our Creator decided to give us free will; God literally let us go and let us be – and anything less than this kind of freedom would have stifled our relationship with Him.

So, here we are: imperfect human beings on one hand and our flawless God on the other. How can humans and God ever get along?

Love makes it happen (Proverbs 10:12):

“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”

Jesus set the stage for forgiveness; in fact, this is what He stands for. Forgiveness gives love an added dimension. Call it color, call it flavor – forgiveness makes love rich and generous.

Using a North American sport as an analogy – playing baseball, we are sometimes challenged to hit a curve-ball, which is a pitch thrown with a strong downward spin, causing the ball to drop suddenly and veer to the side as it approaches home plate. People’s imperfections are such curve balls thrown at us; we are challenged to catch them and land a home run as we love, let go of hurts, and love again.

As much as we forgive others, we too need to be forgiven. Experiencing forgiveness is like seeing the sun rise again. We stop throwing ourselves under the bus with condemnation the moment we accept forgiveness. Who needs the most forgiveness? Who cares? Playing the blame game never helps.

Love covers over all wrongs. This is how forgiveness works. This is imperfection made perfect.

“Man is many colors child:
Some are yellow, some are brown.
And some are black as sightlessness,
Some white as eiderdown.
She took her crayons from a box
And placed them in my glove
And said, “By mixing all of these
Comes my favorite color–love.” – Joni Mitchell

Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

The other day I came across an interesting statement by Morgan Freeman:

“Toxic mothers are just as bad as absent fathers, but ya’ll not ready for that discussion yet.”

One of the prime reasons of toxic personalities is unresolved issues germinating right below the surface – and lack of forgiveness is one of them.

What happens when we forgive a person? Here is what happens: we address an offense (one at a time) and then we are able to move on. Granted – addressing offense is hard work. Depending on the gravity of the offense, it may feel like reopening an old war wound, which means we are bleeding all over again. We want to get to the person(s) involved and we want justice. Understandably so! Well, sometimes the offenders cannot be reached. They might be dead or unavailable. Forgiving a person does not depend on the person who offended us.

The work of forgiveness is entirely our business. We have to get through this. We have to sort through our feelings. We have to do the house cleaning. “Well”, you might say, “What about the person responsible for all the mess in the house? That person left me and didn’t come back to pick up the pieces.” As awful as it is to be left behind with a messy situation, here is what I think: Yes, this person violated you and had no right to do so, but after all, this is your realm, your house. You pick up the pieces or you will find yourself in a situation similar to hoarders who cannot enter certain rooms in their house because it’s full of clutter.

It is not easy to pick up the pieces and let go. On the other hand it is much more difficult to live in clutter. We may need a third party to go through this situation with us. It is important to acknowledge that we need help.

God recommends forgiveness because it is a healthy lifestyle. Forgiving a person and moving on is freeing. Nobody is perfect. As much as we need to forgive others, others may need to forgive us too.

Matthew 12:31: “‘That is why I tell you that men may be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit cannot be forgiven. A man may say a word against the Son of Man and be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven either in this world or in the world to come!’”

A demon-possessed, blind and mute person was brought to Jesus, and He healed Him. The formerly blind and mute person now spoke and saw to everybody’s amazement. Everyone, except a group of religious leaders! They purposely came up with a different explanation (Matthew 12:24):

“Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, ‘This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.’”

Religious leaders are supposed to know God, and they would fight you tooth and nail if you said otherwise. I personally doubt that Jesus’ contemporaries who critiqued His every move really knew God because their behavior did not advertise His intentions at all. However, the trick is, they say so. Saying we know God on one hand and misinterpreting God’s deeds on the other insults the Holy Spirit, and for such behavior, Jesus says, there is no forgiveness left. Why? Well, here is a surprise: because we think we are right!  God cannot forgive a person who is right. This seems to be the only limit to God’s mercy.

Similar to the situation with a tax collector and a religious leader who both prayed in the temple: the tax collector prayed for forgiveness, while the religious leader didn’t think he needed any forgiveness but essentially congratulated himself in his prayer. Jesus points out that these two prayers have two very different outcomes (Luke 18:14):

[Jesus says] “I tell you, this man went to his home justified [forgiven of the guilt of sin and placed in right standing with God] rather than the other man;”

The only lid we can put on God’s mercy is ourselves. We can be the lid. We have the power to limit God’s mercy by simply stating: “I don’t need it.”

On a different note: do you think we have issues with mercy when we always try to find a reason NOT to forgive? Why do we try so hard to find boundary lines to God’s amazing grace, e.g.: “this is how far God’s mercy goes, surely God can’t forgive that!” Isn’t it interesting that we like to use the term “The sky is the limit” when it comes to success, dreams, and ambitions, but when it comes to God’s mercies we want to put a lid on? The truth is: There is no lid on God’s mercy. His mercies are new every morning according to the prayer of an unnamed person in the book of Lamentations (Lamentations 3:23):

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”

God is all we’ve got. There is a reason why we are born naked and can’t take anything with us when we die. All we really need is God, especially His tender mercies with every waking day!