The advice columns that appear in many newspapers provide an interesting window into relationship challenges. Some writers may be seeking an independent assessment of who was right and who was wrong in a particular situation. Others may be looking for ways to mend a relationship, and many letters focus on who was the first to offend, or whose offense was more egregious, who owes whom an apology, or whether any amount of repentance is sufficient to right a particular wrong.
One doesn’t need to peruse these columns for long before concluding that people spend an inordinate amount of time finding fault with one another and being hurt by the actions (or inactions) of those around them. We may not think that issues of wrongdoing and fault-finding are the most profound that face us, but they certainly are common. And how we deal with them can have a marked influence on both our health and our happiness. Holding a grudge or feeling angry does nothing to resolve a relationship issue. So what are we to do when someone wrongs us? How do we overcome our hurt feelings and find a way to forgive?
Jesus indicated clearly how to handle the offenses of others: forgive, forgive, and forgive again, even when treated unfairly, with no preconditions or requirement for repentance on the part of the offender. Jesus instructed his followers to love their enemies, to bless them, to pray for them, to forgive them. But how does one obey these commands when feeling angry, hurt, or confused? It takes more than just obedience to satisfy the requirement, since forgiveness can’t simply be delivered on request; genuine forgiveness comes from the heart.