Forgiveness can be a sensitive topic in the Church. It is often so because the word “forgiveness” has been misunderstood. First, it is important to know what forgiveness is not. It is true that some horrendous things have been done to certain people by others. Forgiveness does not mean justification of these things. To forgive a wrong does not mean that this wrong was not done to us. To forgive something does not make it excusable. When we forgive, it does not mean that we deny that what was done to us was enormous or hateful.
We can consider our own forgiveness by God. Does the fact that the Lord forgave us mean that we have never sinned? Are we saying that we have done nothing wrong when we receive Christ’s sacrifice? Are we saying that our sin was not enormous? Are we saying that we did not deserve condemnation? Nobody is saying that. What we are saying is that God gave us unimaginable grace in view of our colossal sin. Moreover, God has done that at His own cost. Christ laid down His own life to forgive us for our sins.
So I am not justifying what someone has done to me when I forgive them. I look their sin right in the face and I say, “This sin is enormous. It is worthy of death. However, I forgive this wrong because I have been forgiven.”We take a full account of what has been done to us when we forgive. Then, we choose to release the person who hurt us.
Thinking that forgiveness is justification can be confusing. One can wonder: How can a just God say that sin was OK? How can He justify rape? Murder? Stealing? Betrayal? God does not justify those things. He calls them what they are. Then, He chooses the death of His Son as the price paid for them. The Bible says that the payment for sin is death. God does not justify sin. The reason He can forgive our sins is because Christ died in our place. He also died in the place of the people who sinned against us. The sacrifice of Christ is enough to pay for the sins we committed and the sins that were committed against us. Forgiveness is accepting the sacrifice of Christ as sufficient. It is not justifying sin. Forgiveness is accepting that each sin has been paid for in full by Christ.