Growing up with a little sister it wasn't uncommon for a "fight" to break out. Then the inevitable "I'm telling mom!" After hearing our stories, mom would instruct us to say we were sorry and if our first attempt wasn't convincing we might hear something like this, "now say it like you mean it!" Saying sorry was the first step to restoring the relationship. In my house, once someone said they were sorry the case was closed. It was proverbial water under the bridge. We moved on. But how are we supposed to "move on" if the person who has offended us never apologizes? The only way that we can say "I forgive you" to someone who hasn't asked for our forgiveness or doesn't think they need it, is to look at our offense from Calvary.
Regardless of the offense that has been committed against us, no offense will ever be as severe as the offenses we have committed personally against the Holy God of the universe. We have all sinned and fallen short of His glory (Rom. 3:23). We have not only missed the target we should have hit, we willfully, arrogantly, and rebelliously aimed at the target of our choosing. Before our salvation, we all knew the God we should glorify and yet refused to give Him the worship He deserves. Instead we created a god of our own making and gave it the affection, admiration, and attention that we should have given Him (Rom 1:19-23).
We are guilty of cosmic treason and yet God has forgiven us! The question is why has God forgiven us? That answer reveals the reason we should forgive others. Ephesians 4:32 says that we are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you!
Paul quotes the 32nd Psalm in Romans 4:8 and explains perfectly what forgiveness means. "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. The word impute is a mathematical term that means to count. It means that God is not keeping score of your wrongs! Forgiveness then is when God no longer "keeps score" of the wrongs you commit against Him because He has held Christ accountable for all of them!
Here is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. If God forgives us of the sins we have committed against Him or no longer holds those sins against us because Christ has paid for them, who are we to hold something against someone that Christ has paid for? If the one who has wronged you is in Christ then their sin has been punished in Christ, what more do you want? If they are out of Christ, God will set the record straight by judging them for their sins for all eternity. This is why we are to pray for our enemies! Pray that God would be pleased to give them the same grace we have received from His hand.
You can say "I forgive you" with words or more important with your actions like you mean it when you realize what it means for God to have forgiven you! When you realize that God is no longer holding your sin against you for Christ's sake, then you can quit keeping score against your brothers and sisters in Christ! This is only possible because their wrongs have all been made right in Him!
The Apostle Peter once asked the Lord how many times he should forgive those who have wronged him. Peter piously asks if he should forgive seven times. It is believed that the Jewish Rabbis taught that forgiving someone more than three times was unnecessary. Peter's number seven was then overly gracious! However, Jesus does not commend him. He says no, seventy times seven (490 for math majors like me)!
Jesus did not actually mean that we should keep count of how many times we have forgiven someone of their wrongs against us. He was actually teaching the opposite! Give the grace of forgiveness the 491st time just the same as you did the first time because you aren't keeping count, you are only handing out the same grace that you have received!
In Christ you are freely forgiven and free to forgive. So put down your pen and paper. Stop keeping score. Forgive them and mean it!
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you" Ephesians 4:32.