Some of us come to Christ with horrible backgrounds or past experiences. Maybe you grew up in an abusive home where the father beat you. Or you might have experienced emotional abuse from your mother. Some people were molested as children, while others were raped as adults. Many of us have been violated in a physical, emotional, verbal, or financial way by a family member, a friend, or even a stranger. What does a Christian do in such situations if the abuser now seeks forgiveness? How does one forgive something that seems unforgivable?
When we are faced with situations like these, there are biblical truths that can help us. First, we need to know that we cannot forgive anyone until we realize that we ourselves have been forgiven. We cannot forgive others fully in our own human strength. Of course, sometimes people choose to forgive something they deem forgivable. People can naturally decide that something is not a big deal. However, the truest forgiveness, forgiveness in a biblical way for something that really hurt us, cannot be extended to others until we receive it ourselves.
At the same time, we can only receive forgiveness when we understand the nature of sin. We need to understand the enormity of our sin before God. We need to realize the scandalous, hateful nature of sin. We need to know that we deserved to be condemned for our sin. Moreover, we deserved to be condemned for our sin eternally. We can only consider forgiveness when we honestly take into a full account of what we have been forgiven of.
The truth is that nothing that has ever been done to us, no matter how painful it seems, compares to the enormity of our sin against God. Yet, God chose to forgive us in Christ. When we realize how much we have been forgiven, it becomes easier for us to extend forgiveness to others. Jesus gave an example in the Gospels that put forgiveness in monetary terms. He said that God has forgiven us for a million-dollar debt. Would it then be right for us to hold someone else responsible, want to punish the person or send them to jail, for a ten-dollar debt they owe us? Of course not. Once we realize how much God has forgiven us, we can freely and fully forgive others. We can forgive because we ourselves are forgiven.