Many teachings of Christianity offer solutions to the problems we face in the 21st century. Skeptics claim that the Bible is an ancient book of myths with no relevance to life in the modern era. That is not true! The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness speaks to divine inspiration and validates the Christian life.
One area that relates to depression and mental illness is how we forgive people who have wronged us. The evolutionary explanation tells us to live by the survival of the fittest, and getting even is a key to survival. In reality, that doesn’t work, but Christ’s teaching on forgiveness does.
Trying to demonstrate your superiority by getting even contaminates all human relationships. I have seen unbelieving friends and family members spend much of their lives trying to get even with someone who wronged them. People are often estranged from siblings, parents, or children because they follow an unchristian approach to perceived wrongs.
Christ taught a different approach. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus told his followers, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive those who sin against you, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.” This is in such contrast to human nature that in Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Christ how many times he must forgive a brother. Peter thought he was generous by suggesting a limit of seven times. Jesus responded by saying seventy times seven. He didn’t mean 490 times. He was saying that forgiveness of a brother, friend, or even an enemy is unlimited.
The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness is proven by the fact that failing to forgive will eat you alive, mentally and emotionally. Most of us have no problem forgiving the mistakes of a small child an unlimited number of times. We need to have that same spirit in dealing with family members and others. If you are a Christian and someone has wronged you, don’t carry a grudge and build a wall between you and that person.
Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Our capacity to forgive is one of the most critical demonstrators of that love. If you are not a Christian, I suggest that there is help from God in feeling forgiveness, leading to better mental health and freedom from depression. The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness demonstrates that it is not based on human wisdom.
— John N. Clayton © 2021