We believe that forgiving people who hurt us is an important aspect of following Jesus.
Important? It is key, critical, essential. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel message. God has forgiven you, and you now have the ability and obligation to forgive others.
In a more traditional presentation, I would have talked about 'love' - about the example of Jesus' love, and His command that we should 'love one another.' But the word is sadly mis-understood these days, and using it can so easily be misleading.
The idea of 'forgiveness' captures much of the essence of the message of love in Jesus' life and teaching...
One of the great strengths of the Christian faith is that it does not side-step the issue of pain. Yes, people have hurt you. But revenge will not lessen the pain, and justice is in the hands of God. And you have hurt others - should they receive full recompense from you?
Perhaps the hurt you have given is far less than the hurt you have endured. But how can you tell? And how can you be sure? Others have hurt you without realising they did it, or how badly you were hurt. It is at least possible you have inflicted pain, perhaps serious pain, also without realising.
If we are to follow Jesus, we only have one option - to gratefully receive the forgiveness we need, and to extend that same forgiveness to all those who have hurt us. Freely forgiving people is the first step on the path to loving them as Jesus did.
People sometimes say, 'forgive and forget.' This is partly helpful, and partly unhelpful.
It is helpful because it makes the point that forgiveness and forgetfulness are two quite different and distinct things. We can do either one without the other.
It is unhelpful because it tells you to do something you cannot choose to do. You cannot choose to forget. You can, however, choose not to keep on reminding yourself.
People rarely object to the idea of forgiveness. They sometimes object to a misunderstanding of what we mean by it, but that is a different problem.
The concept of karma seems to be the main alternative: the belief in absolute cause-and-effect. If you believe this, forgiveness is not an option because everything that everyone does will have its consequences, and nothing can possibly change that. Forgiving someone else makes as much difference as shouting at the characters in a book.