Mercy and forgiveness have to be given freely and unmerited to the wrong doer. If the wrong doer has to do something to merit it, then it isn't mercy. In the same fashion, forgiveness will always cost the person giving the forgiveness.
I pulled this from a book I am currently reading, (althought I have read it 2 other times) called The Prodigal God. As I thought about what it meant, I was hit with what felt like a ton of bricks. It challenged me.
Why I know it is true, its amazing how easy it is to not really internalize it. It is easier to believe that we have to earn forgivness for our sins. I am constantly having to check myself and my actions to see if I am trying to earn forgiveness or if my actions are out of my love for who God is. Unfortunately, this also means that other times I find myself making someone else earn forgiveness and show them very little mercy.
I can't say that I have ever really thought about how me forgiving someone is going to actually cost me something. Most of the time its our pride and our "entitlement," but it will cost something.
I think about Christ and what He gave up so that we could be forgiven. It wasn't His fault that we are creatures of sin. It wasn't His fault that we kept failing and missing the point. However, He was willing to give up everything...His kingdom, His power, His glory...everything...so that He could become Human and sacrifice everything so that we could be forgiven.
I am pretty certain He probably suffered far more than I ever will have to, and yet we so often hold on to something so small when it comes to forgiving people. Think about it, Christ asked God to forgive the people who were beating, torchering, abusing, taunting, and killing Him and yet someone is mean to us or does something to offend us and we want nothing to do with them? I know I am guilty.
Anyway, there is so much more than can be learned from that quote if we could just grasp a hold of what it really means. It's a challenge to wrestle with this week.