Giles Fraser hits a home run with this one, in my view.
I’m perfectly aware that someone like me probably can’t talk legitimately about forgiveness when I find it so hard to forgive people myself – even for things that are pathetically small.
But I am going to risk it only because I suspect there is so much sentimentalising of forgiveness that it blocks out much of our understanding of the real thing. And by sentimentalising, I mean the idea that forgiveness involves person A coming to have warm and kindly feelings towards person B when person B has done them some enormous harm.
One of the things I have always liked about the stories of the Bible is that they are mostly uninterested in a person’s inner life. They don’t say much about how Jesus feels. But they say a great deal about what he does. Likewise with forgiveness: it is not fundamentally something that you feel, but something that you do.
Read the rest here. The only addition I would make to Giles’ thoughts is that forgiveness isn’t just a negative thing – refusing to take revenge – but also a positive thing – going the second mile and acting in compassion and love toward the offender, even though it’s probably the last thing we feel like. That’s what Paul meant when he told us that if our enemy is hungry, we should feed them, and if they’re thirsty, give them a drink.
But when it comes to his basic point – that forgiveness is something you do, not something you feel – I’m with Giles 110%.