Well that depends. It depends on what you are saying is mandatory. Forgiveness is grace in its most costly and precious form. My favorite short definition for grace is “one-way love.” By that I mean that grace is love given when it is not given in response to something worthy of love. Forgiveness is love that is shown in spite of the fact that things have been done that were hurtful, ugly, and damaging. It is love that is willing to accept the loss, the pain, the disappointment, the failure, and not hold it against the offender anymore. I’ve expanded on this here.
But is forgiveness mandatory? It is not mandatory in the sense that it cannot be demanded. Forgiveness is never given because it is deserved. God does not forgive us because we had more good days than bad days. He forgives us in spite of the fact that we have never really been “good” (according to His standards of good) any day. He forgives us because He choses to. That’s it. And in that sense it is one-way love.
But when it comes to relationships, if we are ever going to learn to love the way God loves us, if we are every going to last more than a week in a relationship, then forgiveness is mandatory. It is mandatory in that every person we love is damaged, broken, faulty, and sinful. In different ways and to different degrees to be sure, but there is no perfect person. We are going to get hurt. We are going to hurt others. That’s just a fact of life in this world we live in. There is no escaping it. So if we are going to love people, I have been learning that forgiveness is not just a good idea, it is mandatory.
I’ve been talking with a couple I have known for years who have come to a point where forgiveness, immense forgiveness needs to be given. I am happy to say that in this case it is the path that is being taken. It is not going to be easy. Healing will not be quick. Trust needs rebuilt. There is a lot of work to do in the immediate future. But that relationship can be restored because forgiveness is being poured on the wound. It was the mandatory medication to heal the cancer that had emerged in that relationship. Without it, it would fail.
When I perform a wedding ceremony I always say that one of the cardinal laws of personal relations is this: people thrive under praise and deteriorate under criticism. If we want to be exceptional in our relationships we have to master this basic principle. People thrive under praise and deteriorate under criticism. Look for the good in your spouse and praise it.
There will be days when you say, “That Pastor Dan was out of his mind thinking there is always something to praise about you!” Well there is. Find it. Praise it often. Praise it sincerely.
And be generous with your grace. Remember the grace that Christ has given you. In fact we are told to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Be quick to forgive and be slow to anger.
There isn’t anything Mandi has done to me that has hurt me as much as I hurt my God every single day. And if He hasn’t given up on me, what right do I have to give up on her?
You are going to hurt each other. That’s just part of life. But remember how much God has forgiven you for. That will keep you humble and ready to forgive even when you’re really hurt. Be lavish with your praise and generous with your grace.
Forgiveness is mandatory.