The senior partner of the firm of accountants for which I used to work, leant across the desk and said to me: 'You know, Keith, as Christians we are not terribly good at forgiveness are we?'
Ouch! It's one of those moments that's stayed with me over the years, for the heart of Christianity is God's grace, his unconditional favour and his offer of forgiveness to us.
Each week in church when we say the Lord's Prayer we say: 'and forgive us our trespasses/ which is OK. It's the next bit that I sometimes wonder whether I can mean: 'as we forgive them that trespass against us.'
It's for our benefit
The famous Christian writer, C S Lewis, once wrote: 'Everyone says forgiveness is a good idea ... until they have something to forgive.' Forgiveness is not always easy.We might ask ourselves 'how can I forgive when I hurt so much?' And yet learning to forgive is for our own benefit as much as for the benefit of those who have offended against us.
The alternative to forgiveness is to harbour anger, pain, rage, resentment, revenge, bitterness - these things are corrosive to our character and can destroy us. The old Chinese proverb is right: 'Whoever opts for revenge, digs two graves.'
By contrast, Max Lucado said: 'Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free ... and realising that you were the prisoner.'
Hanging from the cross, bruised, bleeding and in unfathomable pain, Jesus finds the strength within himself to cry out: 'Father forgive for they do not know what they are doing.' And we know that Jesus's death, and subsequent resurrection, won for us reconciliation with God and unconditional forgiveness for all our shortcomings.
A choice we all face
When someone wrongs or upsets us, we come face to face with a vital question: 'Are we going to spend our one, pre cious life being angry and victimised or will we forgive?' The choice is ours.