But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
To forgive our enemies is a work that is good in many senses.
It is good for the one who is forgiven. We have all done or said things to hurt others and when those persons let us know that all is okay, that they do not hold onto the grudge, it is good news for us. We would all hate to go around with all of our deeds unforgotten and constantly remembered and dragged out for public view. So it is good and a cause for him or her to celebrate when the offender is forgiven.
It is good for the one who forgives – usually better even. Unforgiveness is like an acid that does more damage to what it is stored in than what it is poured on. Unforgiveness is like taking poison while hoping that the other person will die. So for the one who forgives it is a very good thing, otherwise he or she will be stuck constantly in the pain of the offense, never being freed, emotionally stunted, and spiritually cold toward God. We cannot forget that forgiveness is a Christian duty, and though it does not always mean re-instatement, it does mean that the anger toward the offender is released into the hands of God.
It is good for society at large. Bitterness and unforgiveness result in revenge and revenge usually hurts innocent people. Two unforgiving and quarreling drivers on the road, if they are aggressive toward one another, are distracted and more likely to hurt other drivers and travelers. Anger and rage makes us blind to the damage we do to others around us.
It is good in the sense of its origin, also, for there are some levels of forgiveness that only God’s Spirit can achieve in our lives. When we are pushed to a place where it is hard to forgive, when the offense is deep and the pain is seemingly unbearable, this is a time when we need the grace of God to forgive in His power, and not just our own. Are there things that still bother you? People you have still not forgiven? Seek the deeper walk with Christ until you are free from the anger and bitterness.
It is good also for the witness of the church and for the gospel. Today there are Christians in northern Iraq that are facing terrible persecutions for their faith. The anger and hatred toward Followers of Christ by some Muslims is incredible. What type of religion can only be spread through the threats of beheadings? We must pray for our brothers and sisters – for protection and safety. But anger and human wrath does not work God’s righteousness (James 1:20). While we have every right to defend ourselves and every obligation to protect the innocent we must avoid the unforgiveness that hardens our hearts and provokes revenge. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord (Rom. 12:19), and we are called to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).
So, forgive your enemies and bless the world.