God*s forgiveness benefits Him in a small way in that He is then able to enjoy us. His forgiving us provides a far greater benefit to us since we are kept out of Hell and get into Heaven. Forgiveness that happens in a human greatly benefits the forgiver. It can remove the bitterness that makes him unhappy and spiritually useless. It may have zero effect on the one forgiven. Our motivation should be that both we and the offender benefit, but since we have no control over whether the offender will desire or accept forgiveness and its benefits, we should forgive them for our own benefit. When we have been forgiven, we should become forgiving.
Matthew 6:14-15: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Ephesians 4:30-32: And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ*s sake hath forgiven you.
For a Christian there is the primary and eternal forgiveness that happens when one trusts Christ and first becomes a child of God. Once you become a child of God you will always be a child of God. And there is the secondary forgiveness which restores the child of God to fellowship with God after he has sinned. When a wayward child disobeys his parents his relationship with his parents is marred. He will always be their child but sometimes restoration of the relationship is needed through loving discipline, repentance and apology. Likewise, when God*s children offend Him there needs to be a restoration of the relationship.
Being able to forgive others is not something we can womp up ourselves. Forgiveness will never originate in our flesh. His divine power gives us that ability. When we are not forgiving others we are fulfilling the lust of the flesh. When we walk in the Spirit we will forgive. God*s forgiveness to us will cause in us forgiveness to others.
One day God is going to change us and make us perfect beings. The old nature will be dead and gone. There won*t be any problem with forgiveness then. The problem is here and now. God*s goal is to make us perfect. It is not a journey of one day.
Ephesians 4:32: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ*s sake hath forgiven you.
Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is something we should do in spite of our feelings. Forgiveness may or may not include warm fuzzy feelings for the offender. Forgiveness will not keep the forgiver from being wary of the offender. Forgiveness will not necessarily cause the forgiver to trust the offender. Forgiveness will not include enabling the offender to go on committing the offense. Forgiveness may not cause peace between the forgiver and the offender. It is harder to forgive an unrepentant offender.
Exodus 22:1: If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.
If a man restored 4 or 5 times what he had stolen from me I would have an easy time forgiving him. It would be much harder if the fellow still has my sheep.
It should be helpful to remember that Jesus died for the offenders* sin just as much as He died for our sin.
Psalm 103:10: He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
Since He hath not dealt with us after our sins we should not deal with others after their sins.
God wants us to have a clean slate before He will accept our gifts or service to Him.
Matthew 5:23-24: Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Randy Alcorn on Forgiveness in his book The Grace and Truth:
Extending Grace to Others
Jesus told of a servant whose debt to his master was ten thousand talents, the equivalent of millions of dollars. The servant begged forgiveness. Though the master had every right to imprison him for the rest of his life, he offered a full pardon. Then this servant went out and found a fellow servant, who owed him a much smaller amount -- 1/600,000 of what he*d been forgiven. He demanded full and immediate payment. The debtor fell to his knees and pleaded for mercy. But he showed no mercy, throwing him into prison. When the master heard about this, he said, in essence, Had my forgiveness really touched your heart, you would have extended it to your brother. The master withdrew forgiveness, since a man who won*t extend grace shows an utter disregard for grace. This parable teaches: Our debt to God is infinitely beyond our capacity to pay. Our debt to God is infinitely greater than any person*s debt to us.
God*s grace to us is lightning. Our grace to others is thunder. Lightning comes first; thunder responds. We show grace to others because He first showed grace to us.
Francis Frangipane in His Book The Place of Immunity:
If we do not walk in a forgiving attitude, we will certainly become prey to an embittered spirit. We must guard our hearts from reacting in bitterness or unforgiveness. Yet, just to survive in this cruel world, we often withdraw from the vulnerability of love. We cannot choose cautious, selective love and also walk in the power of God*s kingdom. To counter pain, we unconsciously shut down our love, for it is love that makes us vulnerable. God wants us to be a people whose love is growing hot, not cold.
Jesus did not say we had to trust our enemies, but He did say we had to love them. You ask, Why? One reason God allows difficulties is to test us. He wants to see if our Christianity is merely an intellectual pursuit or if following Him is truly the highest passion of our hearts. Thus, He tells us, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).
Some of you have gone through rejection and betrayal, but the Lord says you did not fail. You have continued to love. Although you went through great pain, you have forgiven those who have hurt you. You passed the test. Some of us still have certain individuals in our lives that we have not forgiven and whom we do not love. Perhaps you are right, they do not deserve your forgiveness. But, what you do not realize is the consequence of your anger. As long as you refuse to forgive, a part of you is trapped in the past. Here, you are always being reminded of your pain. Until you forgive, you will not be fully released to go on with your life. Even the season in which you were hurt will bring depression!
There is only one way we can have true fellowship with God, and that is in the here and now. But when your mind is in conflict with others, you are neither here nor in the now. When you live in the past, you are cut off from God. What they did to you is over. It is done. It does not have any real existence or life of its own except in your mind. There, within you, the deed continues to live -- and as long as it lives, you are still being hurt by it. The person who wounded you may have long since died. They cannot be blamed, for it is you who keeps your wounds alive!
Not only is the quality of your spiritual life affected, but your physical well-being pays a price as well. As long as you keep holding onto the burden of what someone did to you, each time you think about that person your stomach acids churn and your anxiety increases. Your body is continually put under stress. If you do not forgive those who have hurt you, you will lose a measure of your capacity to live. Whether they deserve forgiveness or not, you deserve a better life! But you are shackled to something that was hurting you, and your own unforgiveness tortures you.
How do you get out of that prison? How do you find the protection of God for your soul? God calls you to forgive. You must see the hands of God reaching to you in the midst of your pain. He wants to redeem that conflict, using that specific adversity to perfect character in you. It will be this event that He will use to make you like Christ.
Each time you say, Father, I choose to love, I choose to forgive, I choose to forget and not hold it against that person, you are taking on Christ*s nature. Rejoice! Jesus is taking over your heart!
Master, I see in Your forgiveness of me the pattern for my forgiveness of others. Lord, You forgave the Pharisees who lied about You; You pardoned the soldiers who mocked and crucified You; You encouraged Your disciples* hearts to not be troubled, knowing they were about to deny and betray You. Yet, You not only forgave them, You died for them. You opened your heart as wide as the universe and welcomed us all to be reconciled to God. Grant me this power to forgive, to lay down my life for others, to know the love that compelled You to such righteousness! Amen.