From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 12 – What it really meant by forgiving others, and what does it involve?
To forgive another person, in the narrowest sense of the word, requires us to recognise and accept the following things:
a) that a wrong has been done to you and, perhaps, that harm has been caused.
b) that it has been done by person X (or group X)
c) that all wrongdoing will be fully dealt with by Jesus, either at the Judgment Seat of Christ (for Christians) or the Great White Throne Judgment (for non-Christians).
d) that only Jesus is legitimately qualified for the role of judging person X or group X.
e) that for you to attempt to judge and/or punish that person or group now would be premature, illegitimate and unauthorised. It would involve usurping Jesus’ role.
f) that due to your inadequate knowledge and understanding, person X would never get a ‘fair trial’ from you. You would never be able to take fully into account the multitude of relevant facts, his various motives, and any other aggravating or mitigating factors. You just don’t have enough wisdom or computing capacity for a job like that. It would be worse than if you had just wandered into the Old Bailey, sat in a Judge’s chair and started to try a case. Doing that would be unthinkable. None of us would even dream of it. Yet that is the equivalent of what we would be doing if we refused to forgive others and tried to judge them ourselves.
g) that we have to make a decision to hand the case over to Jesus. We can, and must, step aside and leave it all to Him. He will then deal with everything in His own time, either now, or later, or both.
These points summarise the main things we need to do if we are to forgive someone effectively. But the above list sounds quite different from most people’s idea of what forgiveness involves. Forgiveness is not a well understood concept, even amongst Christians. There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about it, due to poor teaching, or no teaching at all.
It is also caused by demonic deception which obscures the biblical understanding of forgiveness and promotes various other garbled definitions instead. The Devil does not want forgiveness to be properly understood or practiced. He tries particularly hard, therefore, to distort our understanding of this subject.