Paul explains our basis for forgiving others in Ephesians 4:32, “forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
How does Christ forgive?
If you owe someone a debt, there are two ways this debt can be forgiven:
1) You can pay it off.
2) You can be released from your indebtedness by the grace of the loan holder.
If Christ forgives us after we have worked off our debt to Him, we would then only be responsible to forgive those who have worked off their debt to us. Forgiveness is straightforward and not that difficult.
If, however, Christ forgives by having mercy and compassion on us, seeing our inability mixed with our acknowledgment of that inability and looking to Him for mercy, we are forgiven.
Christ’s forgiveness of us is based on grace. God gives grace to the humble. Humility acknowledges inability and puts complete confidence in another to help. To deny this point is to miss one major theme of Scripture.
Christ’s died for the sins of the world. The potential for all to be saved is available to all who come to His grace through faith. If this is the way Christ forgives us, this then must be the way we forgive others.
We are ready to forgive all, and as much as it’s up to us, our forgiveness is sitting right there and is our outlook on others. This forgiveness is only received by those who want to be forgiven, however. I can’t forgive someone who refuses to be forgiven even if I am totally ready to forgive.
The fact that Christ forgives us in this gracious way puts a heavy responsibility on us in how we forgive others. Being forgiven due to working off debt is much easier to apply to others! But if I am to forgive as Christ forgives, wow, that’s rough–I have to do all I can to forgive all offense, even to personal injury.
One more reason why we need the indwelling Spirit and the transformative power of the Gospel!