Chad Bird writes about forgiveness, observing that forgiving others is not something we do for our own therapeutic benefit.
Followers of Jesus forgive because we have to pass on the forgiveness that has been given to us.
From Bird’s post:
What does it mean to forgive? For the Christian, it means simply this: to see all sins and all sinners in the crucified body of Jesus. And I do mean “all.” From the Nazi guard to the pedophile priest. From the petty criminal to the gossiping octogenarian. From the racist to the road-rager. All. None excepted. Jesus on the cross was all humanity compressed into one person. The one righteous man became all unrighteous people to atone for us all.
Just as we believe ourselves to be forgiven because God sees us in Christ, so to forgive others is to see them as God sees them in Christ. To forgive, in other words, is to put God’s eyes in our eyes and our eyes in God’s eyes. And those divine eyes see humanity only through the cross of Jesus.
For this reason, Paul tells us, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, to clothe ourselves with “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:12-13).
Note that last phrase: As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. It echoes the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Notice the order: God’s forgiveness of us leads directly to our forgiveness of others.
But here is where something crucial emerges: the forgiveness we give is not truly ours. Forgiveness is not our personal possession. We don’t own it or control it or (worst of all) manipulate it. Forgiveness has one name written on it: Jesus Christ. He is the sole proprietor of this treasure because he is the sole cause of its existence. All true forgiveness flows from him for he is the one nailed to the cross of atonement. Absolution is the gold he mined on Calvary.
When we forgive, we do so as the Lord has forgiven us. The better we know ourselves, the deeper our awareness of the selfish, horrible, shameful thoughts and desires and words and deeds of which we are guilty, the more we know of what the Lord has forgiven us.