Two days ago I gave two reasons I’m unsatisfied with the idea that God is the only person involved in human forgiveness.
2. If we simply say, “God has to do it,” then we are not wrestling deeply enough with the question of how we encourage people to practice forgiveness. God needs to be active for forgiveness to take place, but we must also be active. If we do not need to act, then why does God encourage us to be forgiving? It’s a trick question, of course. God instructs us to forgive, as Jesus does his disciples, because he believes there is an action we can take in order to bring forgiveness about.
Let me take a step back for a second.
People in Jesus’ day and age were very different from us. They were not “in touch” with emotions. They did not have any concept of an “internal world.” They didn’t know anything about subconscious processes or motivations. They didn’t even know that a person could have an “identity” (other than the identity of whatever group they were a part of). For this reason, I’m not speculating to say that Jesus did not have emotions in mind when he told his disciples to forgive. It’s a fact that can be proven (it would bore all of us- but it can be done). Hearing this for the first time is likely going to be confusing or upsetting. If that’s the case, get in touch and let’s talk it through. This is actually quite good news if you’re willing to hang in there with me.
If Jesus doesn’t have feelings in mind, then what does it mean when Jesus says to forgive from your heart? Well, they didn’t think about the heart as the center of our emotions, the way we do. They thought about the heart as the center of all human activity- the way we use the word “brain.” In other words, a more accurate translation into our vernacular would be, “Forgive others from your brain.” Sounds very different, doesn’t it? It's a little less romantic, but it's not less important.
All this to say, for Jesus, forgiveness would have been an action, not a feeling. And he encourages action from us. The question is, what kind of action?