and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (NLT)
We can get rather mixed up about forgiveness. First, Jesus is not saying our forgiving others causes him to forgive us. We can’t earn forgiveness. He is rather saying that just as he offers forgiveness to us, we are to do likewise to others. We imitate him.
Some seem to think forgiveness is all about being nice and moving on from some hurt. But we can’t move on unless we deal with the hurt. Forgiveness is not leniency or excusing or dismissing. When God forgives us, he does not ignore our sin. He deals with it in inviting Jesus to bear the load of it.
And so forgiveness is quite compatible with seeing justice being done. I may forgive someone who acts in a criminal way towards me but at the same time take steps to ensure the crime is punished. When I forgive, I decide to not let the hurt done to me shape my life and cause me to personally hit back. I don’t forget it, but I choose not to let the memory dictate the rest of my life.
Of course this takes time: forgiveness for us is always a process rather than an event. And we can’t confuse it with reconciliation either. It takes one to offer forgiveness. It takes two to bring about reconciliation. God offers forgiveness to all, but not all are reconciled to him.
In an imperfect world we are not always very good at loving. So we need to become rather better at forgiving.