Some popular answers are:
- when you don't feel hurt or angry anymore
- deciding not to take revenge
- telling the person who wronged you "it's okay"
- cancelling the "debt"
- reconciling with the perpetrator
- saying to them "i forgive you" [but not necessarily knowing what it means!]
the forgiveness that occurs between friends might be different from what might occur between siblings, family members or between a stranger and another stranger.
Does man's forgiveness toward fellow man require repentance? if so, then it's impossible if the perpetrator's dead/no longer in contact with us/doesn't acknowledge their wrong/continues to harm or hurt us.
Should forgiveness be synonymous with reconciliation ?
can forgiveness go hand in hand with justice?
Does God's forgiveness toward us have some aspects that are different from our forgiveness toward fellow man?
I think so! God's forgiveness offers us eternal salvation, whereas our forgiveness can't do that!
May I add at this juncture that not telling anybody what the perpetrator's done to you cannot necessarily be a sign of forgiveness. Hiding/denying the truth about what happened is nothing short of untruthful! Imagine if we advised a rape victim not to report the crime. or all the holocaust survivors not to educate the world about what happened.
I don't want to repeat all the other arguments from billions of other sources so here're my own thoughts on it. Forgiveness.. in light of the gospel is:
- wanting God's will for the perpetrator[s]. Which can only happen when we look to God.
- an expression and overflow of our worship to God
- not a task or an event, but an ongoing posture of wanting God's will for that person.
- not to be confused with reconciliation, which can only occur if the other person has sought forgiveness and willingness to reconcile
I don't have to say :God's best. because God is good, what He wants can never be anything but.
Some of my other thoughts:
-God is just and knows everything, therefore people who sin against us are ultimately accountable to Him anyway. So, our forgiveness of them does not let them off the hook [God's].
- no effort must be made to punish them [personally] knowing full well that God will [in the most just manner] Romans 12:19 However this doesn't preclude reporting crimes to the authorities-this is more to fight the sin committed, to prevent it from happening to others. Also removing oneself from a emotionally/physically dangerous situation in self defence is not an effort to punish them personally, to protect oneself! Same goes with not continuing business with a corrupt business partner if they embezzled money, etc. To prevent further atta
- trusting in God, [His justice and goodness] knowing full well His sovereignty and deep, everlasting love for us frees us to want His will for them, knowing that they can't take anything from us [since God is our portion and more than enough]
- God doesn't hate anyone, He hates sin. So, we can hate the sin [the sin they committed against us] but not hate them.
About whether forgiveness requires repentance to occur - there're several views on it.
Some people think that it doesn't require repentance. if so, then the forgiveness required of us is not the same as God's forgiveness in that respect because God's forgiveness requires our repentance. So if we have to forgive even where there's not been repentance, then we're asked to do more than what God does in forgiving.
In the parable of the debtor [Matthew 18:21-35 ] the debtor's debtee did fall at his feet and beg for mercy.
Luke 17:3 says If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.
does this mean that God only requires us to forgive where there's been repentance?
I don't claim to know the answer to that, but all I know is that we can want God's will for
them even if they don't acknowledge their sin or ask forgiveness. so defined that way, we can forgive.