A Christian needs forgiveness and needs to forgive. Jesus made that very clear:
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:9-15)
Jesus told this parable to illustrate the necessity of forgiving those who trespass against us:
Peter came to Jesus. He asked, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but 77 times.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to collect all the money his servants owed him. As the king began to do it, a man who owed him 10,000 bags of gold was brought to him. The man was not able to pay. So his master gave an order. The man, his wife, his children, and all he owned had to be sold to pay back what he owed.
“Then the servant fell on his knees in front of him. ‘Give me time,’ he begged. ‘I’ll pay everything back.’ His master felt sorry for him. He forgave him what he owed and let him go.
“But then that servant went out and found one of the other servants who owed him 100 silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said.
“The other servant fell on his knees. ‘Give me time,’ he begged him. ‘I’ll pay it back.’
“But the first servant refused. Instead, he went and had the man thrown into prison. The man would be held there until he could pay back what he owed. The other servants saw what had happened and were very angry. They went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the first servant in. ‘You evil servant,’ he said. ‘I forgave all that you owed me because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on the other servant just as I had mercy on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers. He would be punished until he paid back everything he owed.
“This is how my Father in heaven will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)
Faith is an important ingredient of prayer, but forgiveness is vital:
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:24-26)
Whether we think a person is worthy to receive our forgiveness or not is immaterial. Our forgiveness does not mean that we excuse them from any judgment. We should leave all judgment to God. (See Absolution.)
The forgiveness we give others is as much for ourselves as it is for them. Forgiveness can free us from disease, depression, and despair. Our forgiving those who have offended us also helps them. It has been my experience that, when we forgive someone, the other person will experience our forgiveness even if we did not tell them directly. Forgiveness will heal relationships and open up new possibilities.
When we forgive we must also forget. That is the way God forgives:
Surely it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but you have held back my life
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
behind your back. (Isaiah 38:17)
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over the transgression
of the remnant of your possession?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in showing clemency.
He will again have compassion upon us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach one another
or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12)
When we ask God for forgiveness, He gives us a clean slate. But there is one more very significant thing about forgiveness. Have we forgiven ourselves? Since God is greater than we are how could we not be able to forgive ourselves. Thus, we must forgive ourselves. We will remember the lessons we learned, but we must forget all that is past:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14)