When I came to Jesus in 1990 as a meth addict, I brought with me a lot of baggage, blaming everyone for who I had become, most especially my mom. She owed me a significant amount of money back then and wasn’t going to pay it back. Being an unbeliever and full of anger and resentment, I cut her out of my life.
But as a new Christian, I had to forgive her in order for our relationship to work and for me to prove I was indeed Christ’s. Jesus said, “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Even my pastor at the time urged me to forgive her, but I just did not know how. “Forgiveness is a matter of the will,” he said, “you simply forgive from the heart.”
Forgive: to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; to stop being angry with; to pardon. To give up all claim to punish; to overlook.
I thought that there was no way I could do that because she did me wrong! Yet how could I accept God’s mercy for all my sin—that huge, unpayable debt—and then not forgive a relatively small offense committed against myself? It was absolutely unthinkable and bizarre that I would not forgive my mom in light of all that I’d been forgiven by Jesus. This is why forgiveness is the trait that best characterizes a believer. Because so few do it, and so few see it.
Forgiveness is an action and a process.
As a part of my daily prayer life, I would say, “Lord, I forgive my mom.” Day after day, week after week, I’d forgive her. In all sincerity, I confessed my unforgiveness to God, until one day something very strange happened: My heart “clicked.” Literally, I felt a click in my heart. Even more miraculously, all my resentment was gone. I had finally forgiven from the heart.
Louis Smedes writes, “True forgivers do not pretend they don’t suffer. They do not pretend the wrong doesn’t matter much. You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and you can wish them well.”
I called mom to tell her what Jesus did in my heart. Without laying any kind of blame, I explained how much I loved her and that I forgave her for everything. After I finished, she pulled out her check book…then wrote a check for the exact amount that I owed, the amount she owed me, the amount I blamed her for.
Because we had an unpayable debt to God because of our sin, Jesus paid that debt by dying on the cross. With his last breath he said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
He wrote that eternal check to us. We cash it when we trust in Him and repent of our sins.