Most of us have a key ring with several keys on it. Every key has a particular function. Every key will open something—your car, your home, your storage locker—that is locked. The key has a function even if we have forgotten what it goes to.
The ability to forgive has a specific key. If we recognize and understand that key, the act of forgiving is no longer a big issue, no matter how offended, wounded, or hurt we may be. The sad thing is we have forgotten or never really understood the depth of the forgiveness we have been given in Jesus Christ. Our ability to forgive comes from an appropriate understanding of what absolute helplessness and hopelessness looks like apart from Jesus Christ. Make no mistake about it—all of us are totally helpless and hopeless without Christ—doomed to an eternity in hell with a debt of sin none of us can ever pay.
Every person owes a debt that cannot be paid. To do so would require an eternity spent in the torment of hell. How long is an eternity? An eternity is forever. How long is forever? Forever and ever and ever and ever and—you get the picture. Eternity never ends. If one must remain in hell for eternity, then it is rather obvious that the debt owed can never be repaid. That is the definition of hopelessness and helplessness.
Our ability and willingness to forgive then is tied to our understanding of what took place on the cross. Real forgiveness has a cost and the person who offers it must always absorb the full cost of it. The forgiveness we enjoy cost Jesus his life. The torment and torture he endured as he was beaten, scourged, and crucified was the result of our sin, not his. He not only paid for our sin, but he literally became our sin, and at that moment was separated from God. God turned his back and the sun refused to shine as Jesus became sin—those moments were clothed in utter darkness. That’s what the second death is—it is eternal separation from God. That’s the definition of hell. Jesus endured our hell—the second death we deserved—so that we could experience the grace and mercy of total forgiveness.
We have all heard this. We all know this in our head but for some reason, some of us refuse to offer freely the forgiveness we have so freely been given. Understanding it in your mind is completely worthless if you refuse to offer it from your heart.
Perhaps we don’t really understand the cross after all. Perhaps our knowledge is more about the facts of the cross rather than the heart of the person who hung on it. Perhaps the key to forgiveness really has been forgotten. Not knowing what to do with the key is ignorance.
The other option is even more preposterous. In fact, it is downright far-fetched and unbelievable. The only other reason one might offer for not forgiving is understanding the cost of the cross yet refusing to offer it because one somehow thinks another’s sin is far worse than your own. This is not ignorance—this is arrogance.