Learning to exercise forgiveness is critical to Christian development. When Peter asked Jesus if a person should forgive a sin even seven times, Jesus responded not just seven times, but seventy times seven! Then our Lord told the parable (Matt. 18:21-34) about a king who forgave a servant's debt of ten thousand talents but the servant refused to forgive the small debt of one denarius of another person. 10,000 talents is worth about 16 years' wages whereas one denarius is the value of one day's wages! In this story, the huge debt may represent the unpayable debt of sin. We can never atone for our sins. But God's character is such that He loved us even while we were still sinners and sent His Son to die for us.(John 3:16) God is full of mercy, love, and forgiveness.

In Matt. 6:9-13, Jesus teaches us how to pray. In the Lord's Prayer, it says, "Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors." When we pray this prayer, we are asking God to forgive us in the same way we forgive others. Then in Matt. 6:14, Jesus elaborates, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." It's apparent that forgiving others is essential to our relationship with God.

However, sometimes people sin and hurt us in an ongoing situation. Take for instance, when a spouse gambles away the weekly family earnings. It is still important to forgive the gambler, but the innocent spouse can certainly take action to stop the flow of money. We can protect ourselves lawfully, and also forgive the sin. When we exercise forgiveness, we are not agreeing to act like helpless victims.

From the opposite perspective, we may be the ones hurting others. Can we DEMAND forgiveness from those we sin against? No, we cannot. It is our responsibility to confess our sin and to ask for forgiveness. (Matt. 5:23, 24)  What the other person chooses to do is between him or her and God. At times, the hurt is so deep and painful, that the person struggles with how to forgive. It would be appropriate for such a person to pray to God to ask for healing and for help to forgive. God is tender and gentle with us. He will help. (2 Samuel 22:36)