How can we apply these prayers for forgiveness to our own lives?
When we consider the forgiveness of Jesus, Stephen, and Joseph for their persecutors, and God’s forgiveness of David, things that have been wrongly done to us or that we have done that we believe are simply unforgivable are relativized.
In her book Tramp for the Lord Corrie ten Boom tells the story of teaching in Germany in 1947, when one of the cruelest former camp guards from Ravensbrück approached her. She and her sister Betsie were imprisoned in the Ravensbrück camp in 1944 for accommodating Jews, and Betsie died in that camp. Corrie hesitated to forgive the guard, but prayed that they would be able to. She wrote, “For a long moment we took the hands of the other, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love as intensely as I had then. “
Corrie also wrote that in her post-war experience with other victims of Nazi brutality, those who could forgive were best placed to rebuild their lives.
Someone said carefully that forgiveness sets a prisoner free and that you are that prisoner. When we do not forgive, we often play the offense in our minds and let it torment us while the person who hurt us moves on with their life.
Many, including myself, have described forgiveness as a weight lifted from our shoulders. Forgiveness doesn’t justify the other person’s actions and may not lead to reconciliation, especially if the other person is unsafe, but it does free you from carrying the burden of anger and bitterness and not letting their actions destroy you.
Scripture does not simply suggest forgiveness; it commands forgiveness for our own peace and tranquility. Ephesians 4:32 NLT says, “Instead, be kind to one another, be tender, and forgive one another, just as God through Christ forgave you.”
And Colossians 3:13 NLT tells us, “Consider each other’s mistakes and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord has forgiven you so you must forgive others. ”
It has been suggested that “the first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the happiest. “