Many of us are willing to forgive~with stipulation. If you admit your wrong to me and apologize, I will forgive you. If you repay me what you stole from me, I will forgive you. If you come home, Prodigal, and admit your wrong, I will throw a party for you. If you fall into line with how I think this should look, we will once again be friends.
There is no grace when forgiveness comes with stipulation. Grace is a gift freely given and undeserved~no strings attached. My number one rule of gift giving is it is only a gift if it has no strings attached. Once I have passed ownership to another, I also have conceded control or it is not a gift. When we insist upon maintaining stipulations over any gift, it ceases to be a gift.
Of course the young man's actions of forgiving the woman has sparked controversy. His gift of forgiveness was grace. She certainly did not ask for his forgiveness nor deserve it. Though he stated his desire for her to turn to Jesus, he did not say, I will not forgive you unless you make a profession of faith. He simply said, "I forgive you." That flies in the face of our need for justice.
The thing about grace is it is a free gift and undeserved. We extend grace by deciding we have forgiven another who has wronged us and absorbing the cost. When we decide to forgive, it is not always one and done. Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves we have forgiven when anger or revenge rears its ugly head. The winner when we forgive is not necessarily the one who has wronged us~we are always a winner when we release the hold of our need for justice. Forgiveness may well come with a cost of never knowing justice has been served. We may never see the consequences lived out. We are extending grace when we forgive without expectation and bear the loss.
What is the cost of grace? Jesus paid with His life, so that we might live. Could we ever equal that cost? Though grace is freely given, it can come with a huge cost to the one extending it. May we all be willing to extend grace without thought of the cost.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.