Forgiveness - that Divinely-given grace. Humanly-speaking, it is an impossibility...
Growing up in a Christian home, I thought I understood what forgiveness was. It was demonstrated. And yet, I didn't come to know the depth of this concept until I got older...until I came to truly know my own sinful heart.
I have learned that you cannot forgive until you know what it's like to be forgiven. Because God has displayed such unmerited mercy to me in spite of my cold-heartedness, I have no choice but to be merciful to others. To refuse to love, to show grace, to show God, is to reject His acts of undeserved kindness and blessing to me. It is to cut off His cycle of grace. It is to reject His healing that He offers to a dying world.
God, with whom all things are possible, teaches what it means to forgive, to let go. He set the example Himself when, as He hung on a cross for the sins of mankind, He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). After this event took place, a follower of Jesus - Stephen - imitated Christ's example when he prayed, " Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" ( Acts 7:60) as he was stoned to death for his beliefs.
Forgiveness can only originate with God. We cannot will ourselves to forgive. Grace must be given to do so. We cannot make ourselves let go of bitterness and anger. Love must be greater than all of these.
Learning to live in forgiveness took some time for me to grasp. But, with each choice that was made, with each person I decided to forgive, a bit of strength and freedom came to me. It soon became hard for me to imagine why I had held on to those feelings for so long. I regretted that I hadn't forgiven sooner.
Forgiveness really is an impossibility apart from the One who alone can give it. It is a miracle. It is a demonstration of Grace. Each of us, were we to look deeply at ourselves, can probably find a root of unforgiveness somewhere. It is in all of us. And yet, if we belong to God, we do not have to hate, to be angry, to be bitter, to refuse to let go. Like Stephen, we can take the path of restoration and make the choice to move forward in love and forgiveness...even if it is never returned. We need to be forgiven just as much as the person who wronged us because our own heart is so quick to offend God Himself. But, when He bids us to come and experience what only He can offer, when He grants to us far more than we deserve, who are we to refuse such grace to another?! He loved us first; therefore, we love. He forgave us first; therefore, we must forgive also. In so doing, others can be led to the place where they, too, can be given His amazing grace.