There's a passage in the Gospel of Matthew regarding forgiveness that we don't talk about very often because the reality of it can be a bit sobering and a difficult truth for us to accept. In this verse, Jesus shares the implications for those who choose not to forgive others. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
For some of us, when we read that verse, the first thing we try to do is add our own qualifiers to passage and say what we think that Jesus really meant to say. We think that maybe he means we need to forgive as long as it's not a really big sin against us, or we need to forgive if the person asks for forgiveness. Some of us even like to put a timeline on forgiveness and think we only forgive someone if 5 years have passed or 10 years have passed. After all, we feel entitled to our anger and bitterness for how we were wronged and hurt by someone else. We feel like they deserve our wrath for, at least, some amount of time.
Our world and our sinful nature tell us to pursue revenge for the ways that we have been hurt. But forgiveness releases your right to hurt someone else back, and if there is to be any punishment administered, we leave that in the hands of God, who is the perfect judge. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Discussion/Reflection Questions: When have you enacted revenge on someone for the wrong they did to you? How did that feel initially? How did it feel longterm?