סלח, to forgive.
"Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
~the words of Yeshua HaMashiach as recorded by Luke
But what does forgiveness look like? Is it just appropriate words mouthed because we have to? Or is it something more?
We all have lots of opportunities to forgive and be forgiven in our lives, without question. We can beg for forgiveness so easily and often from the Holy One believing He will grant it, but actually granting forgiveness to each other is so much more difficult and complicated. Sometimes, it's just so damn hard to look at each other in the eye and honestly say the words, "I forgive you, truly." And, when those words are sincerely uttered, it is a gift. Yes, a gift that we all have in our possession to give, commanded even, if we can somehow manage to be humble and put aside pride, hurt or embarrassment.
I have had some intense experience, training you could say, in the area of forgiveness by the Righteous Teacher Himself. I would like to say I am learning well, but I'm know I have a long way to go.
I have heard it said that forgiveness means that you no longer want to exact judgment and penalty upon the one who wronged you. Further, you completely and totally give up any type or form of revenge or retribution towards that person, leaving it up to the True Judge, HaShem. However, in the same breath, I have heard the caveat; even though you may grant forgiveness, it doesn't necessarily mean that relationship will be restored. Ah...now there's where we are let off the hook, so to speak. Is it easier to grant forgiveness if you don't ever have to talk or interact with that person again? If so, how will either party ever know if the forgiveness is genuine and truly given?
"I don't have a problem with you as long as I don't have to see you again."
Well, sure. If we pretend that the person no longer exists, I suppose we can pretend we have fulfilled the command to forgive. But, is this the model of forgiveness in Scripture? As you read these verses lifted out of the Apostolic portion of the bible, I think you may agree that none of them lead to a conclusion that we can forgive someone in word, but then refuse fellowship or relationship.
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the LORD: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of G-d; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled...
If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the LORD forgave you.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as G-d in Messiah forgave you.
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Yeshua said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
It is clear that we are commanded to forgive one another by the Messiah Himself over and over. However, I ask again...what does forgiveness look like?
Forgiveness is giving the benefit of the doubt.
Forgiveness is deciding that you care enough to talk things through.
Forgiveness is willing to listen and trying to understand another point of view.
Forgiveness is refusing to talk about your brother with bad intent.
Forgiveness is putting someone else before your own wants, even needs.
Forgiveness is humble and honest.
Forgiveness is available to listen.
Forgiveness is loving, compassionate and generous.
But ultimately forgiveness, in my simple view, is unconditional love. It says, "Nothing you can do is going to change the way I feel about you." Think about that for a moment; what a gift of love to another - the ultimate gift. That is not to say that anyone should be a doormat, nor that we should love that which the LORD hates, but that we are to cover a multitude of sin with love. The kind of love that flows from the regenerate heart of one that has been forgiven. Yes, we have been forgiven a great debt of sin by the One who paid the consequences of that debt in our stead. And, let us not forget that love is another term for service; we love one another by serving one another, just as we seek to serve and worship our LORD.
"I love you and I forgive you. I always will."
The sincere and heartfelt words of forgiveness are powerful, necessary and commanded by the Messiah Himself. The resulting love and compassion that pours out of a heart of forgiveness mirrors the love and forgiveness that we have been shown by the LORD Himself. Again, what a gift.