There are two kinds of forgiveness: the first, psychological forgiveness; the second, Gospel forgiveness.
Psychological forgiveness is what we normally practice. It is the forgiveness that we do because it is healthy for us. It helps us avoid bitterness and anger and all the negatives that come from unforgiveness. We do it for ourselves, to help ourselves, because of ourselves. It is focused on self.
Psychological forgiveness, for Christians, is necessary but not sufficient.
Gospel forgiveness is always focused on restoration, reconcliliation and radical grace. It is sacrificial and costly and unrealistic. It is focused on the other. But it is the model that Jesus gives and call us to. It is the essence of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Gospel forgiveness, for Christians, is always the goal and longing — and it is fully sufficient in that in Gospel forgiveness we will experience all the healing we seek through psychological forgiveness while bestowing the gift of healing on others… and not just others, but the least deserving others.
We choose one of three paths.
Non-forgiveness leads only to bitterness and soul-death.
Psychological forgiveness leads to some healing, but never wholeness.
Gospel forgiveness alone produces wholeness, shalom. It too alone produces in us Christ-like character, the goal of discipleship.
During this lenten season, reflect: which do we seek in our lives? What cost are we willing to pay? What cross shall we bear? How closely shall we follow in His steps?
Jerusalem lies aheads. And in Jerusalem, Golgotha. But also an empty tomb.
Gospel forgiveness is possible — and even demanded — because of that empty tomb.