I really enjoyed this quote from George MacDonald about forgiveness:
“…unforgivingness to our neighbour; the shutting of him out from our mercies, from our love—so from the universe, as far as we are a portion of it—the murdering therefore of our neighbour. It may be an infinitely less evil to murder a man than to refuse to forgive him. The former may be the act of a moment of passion: the latter is the heart’s choice. It is spiritual murder, the worst, to hate, to brood over the feeling that excludes, that, in our microcosm, kills the image, the idea of the hated. We listen to the voice of our own hurt pride or hurt affection (only the latter without the suggestion of the former, thinketh no evil) to the injury of the evil-doer. In as far as we can, we quench the relations of life between us; we close up the passages of possible return. This is to shut out God, the Life, the One. For how are we to receive the forgiving presence while we shut out our brother from our portion of the universal forgiveness, the final restoration, thus refusing to let God be All in all? If God appeared to us, how could he say, “I forgive you,” while we remained unforgiving to our neighbour?” – MacDonald, George (2012-05-17). Unspoken Sermons Series I., II., and II. (Kindle Locations 569-576).
This reminds me of something a mentor of mine once said, “To deny forgiveness is to burn the bridge over which you too must pass.” I am confident that it was my offering unconditional forgiveness to one particular person who had hurt me that opened the world of God’s redemption and light into my life.
MacDonald insightfully points out that as we ourselves constitute a portion of this universe, by denying forgiveness in our little corner of it, we selfishly and impossibly attempt to place limitations on the infinite atonement. By doing so we make forgiveness for ourselves an impossibility, after all, Jesus himself said:
“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:15 NIV)
When it comes to forgiveness, according to musician Matthew West, the prisoner that it really frees is you (song is available on Spotify and iTunes).
To truly forgive, one does not just cease their hatred, offense, or unkind feelings toward another, no, it must blossom into a true and genuine love toward the offender.
A passing-by of the offence might spring from a poor human kindness, but never from divine love. It would not be remission. Forgiveness can never be indifference. Forgiveness is love towards the unlovely. – MacDonald, George (2012-05-17). Unspoken Sermons Series I., II., and II. (Kindle Locations 534-536).