The night I found out about the affair, I told Chris I forgave him, and I believe I continued to forgive him over a series a months. It seemed to come with little effort, either because of God's aggressive grace or Chris' repentance and lack of reoccurring offenses. I would say both (even though only one is needed -- the grace). I know many may not be able to relate to this part of our story, but this is our story. There were plenty of other things that did not come with little effort.
Another reason I was able to forgive is because it could have been me. I could have been the one to have an affair. If this shocks you, don't let it because it could be you, too! The reason we are so shocked by another's sin is because we refuse to see the depth of our own. There were a few who sat across the room from Chris and showed disbelief and shock when he confessed (not that they shouldn't have) but amidst some of those looks was judgement, a look of I would never do that! But, I will never forget the friend who met Chris at the doors of our church, wrapped her arms around him and confessed, Chris, it could have been any of us. Oh, that we would see the sin of others in our own lives. We are all one step away from the most gruesome of sin if it weren't for the grace of God. It could have been me. That's why I forgave.
Forgiveness did not mean saying what Chris did was okay. It meant releasing him to God for God to deal with his heart. I wasn't "letting him off the hook" when I forgave because I'm not his judge. Justin Holcomb says, "If you don't forgive, you are usurping God's authority to act as judge." It released me from authority that wasn't mine to begin with and kept a root of bitterness from growing.
I want to be forgiven. Matthew 6:14-15 says, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Isn't it so true that we want mercy and forgiveness for ourselves and wrath and judgement for others? I hope to grow to a point where I want the same grace, mercy, compassion and forgiveness for others that I want for myself.
The very prayer that teaches you to ask for mercy bids you say "forgive us, as we forgive our debtors." Unless you have forgiven others you read your own death-warrant when you repeat the Lord's prayer. -Spurgeon
I have been forgiven. Who is this, who even forgives sins? (Luke 7:49) This is who Jesus is. I want to be like that, but, also, how can I not respond to what has been done for me? I know what it is to offend others, namely Christ. I know what it is to be in need of forgiveness. I've worn the name of shame and rebuke and orphan and wretched and embarrassment. I didn't deserve to be forgiven. I don't deserve to be called righteous and blameless, but a man stood in my place and took my wrath so that I am forgiven. How then, could I choose not to forgive? Am I above doing what Christ humbled himself to do?
I understand forgiveness does not always come easy. (Sidenote: I have kids. It is a lot "easier" to forgive when you hurt me. My new motto is Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of your Mama Bear. I get that's it hard). I believe it comes with daily dying to self. I believe it is the work of Christ in our lives. That is the joy -- knowing that we are forgiving because the Holy Spirit is working in us.