We do not really know how to forgive until we know what it is to be forgiven. Therefore we should be glad that we can be forgiven by our brothers. It is our forgiveness of one another that makes the love of Jesus for us manifest in our lives, for in forgiving one another we cat towards one another as He has acted towards us. 30

The Bible and Christian tradition talk a lot about forgiveness.

Forgiveness starts, as Merton points out, with the experience of being forgiven. Ephesians says,

be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

There is a direct correlation between my ability to forgive and my awareness that “God in Christ has forgiven” me.

But what does it mean to be forgiven by God?

The Greek word for forgiveness used in Ephesians is charizomai. It has its root in the word charis which means “grace.” To say I have been forgiven, is to say I have received grace.

Receiving grace means, I am excused from suffering the full consequences I deserve as a consequence of my selfish behaviour, my violent attitudes, and my ill-considered words.

Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21,22)

I am guilty of murder; and though I have suffered, I have not paid the full penalty. I have been forgiven.

Acknowledging this forgiveness, I look at the murderer in prison with new compassion and gentleness. He is not different than I know myself to be. We have both done violence. If he opens his heart he will be as much a recipient of God’s grace and as worthy of forgiveness as I.

What might hinder me from becoming aware of God’s forgiveness in my life?

How does my attitude towards other people shift when I see myself as an unworthy recipient of God’s forgiveness and grace?