I have discovered from discussions with fellow ministers that when they have dealt with forgiveness either in a classroom or from the pulpit, it is amazing how many in the congregation had suffered intensely from a sordid history of grudges or unforgiveness. They seemed to have never understood that Jesus died and rose again from the dead to remove this horrid hindrance to Christian victory! Too often, when someone has been confronted with their sinful life or (in the case of having been sinned against) they rage instead of repent. Intense inner turmoil ensues. The latter end of such a person is very sad indeed, unless they submit and repent. In his very helpful book, The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness, John MacArthur makes this insightful point:
Much of Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness was given to teach us not to be driven by our passions in such matters. Allowing emotions to take over and control us so that we violate what we know rationally is our duty is the very essence of sensuality. And sensuality is sinful, whether it is the kind of sensuality that leads to sins of lust like adultery, or the kind of sensuality that allows emotions to become a roadblock to forgiveness.May God help us to respond in faith. Too many live reactionary lives instead of proactively obeying Christ and finding everlasting freedom today!
Forgiveness is first of all an act of the will. It is not hypocrisy to will forgiveness when the emotions are screaming for vengeance. Be obedient to the Lord regardless of how you feel. If you refuse to harbor spite or dwell on the offense, evil emotions will be starved. Moreover, the Lord Himself will set your heart right. Right emotions will eventually come if you surrender to Him.
MacArthur, J. (1998). The freedom and power of forgiveness (electronic ed.) (191). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.