If persons that I have always thought to be my friends pass me by without speaking, and talk to injure me without a cause, am I bound to forgive them and feel as friendly as before—even before they ask forgiveness? Christ does not forgive unless we ask; need we unless we are asked?
We should hold the spirit of forgiveness toward all. This does not mean that we should go to him who has wronged us and say, “We forgive you,” for that would be by implication to charge him with wrong. But we should show that we are friendly and ready to forgive, and should be ready to forgive, or else we would not really forgive when asked. Christ was anxious to forgive us a long time before we asked Him; and, therefore, as soon as we came to that place where we saw our need of His pardon, and showed that we saw our need by asking, the only place where the forgiveness could do us good, Christ there and then freely granted what He was anxious to do all the time. “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3:13. “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25. But to thus forgive we must hold toward all the spirit of forgiveness, whether they ask pardon or not. But this is the very thing which it is difficult for us to do. Shall we offer two suggestions, which may be of help?
1 We can easier forgive others when we think that they, by endeavoring to injure us, are injuring themselves far more. They can only injure our reputation, or that which is to us extraneous, but can never injure our character without our consent; but they do injure that which to every soul should be of superlative value—their own character. Knowing this, our pity should be aroused.
2 If we, in the language of the poet, would “Remember thy follies, thy sins, and thy crimes; How vast is that infinite debt! Yet Mercy hath seven by seventy times been swift to forgive and forget.” He loved us and therefore forgave, even praying to God to forgive His tormentors. Can we not do the same?
From The Signs of the Times, August 21, 1893.
Some questions and answers never change!
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