I've often wondered about the problem of forgiving those who haven't wronged you.
Suppose, just for example, that I have a dear woman friend whose husband, whom I knew only somewhat, leaves her for another woman, betraying both her and their children.
It's not my business to forgive him, right? He hasn't done anything to me. But as I watch her heartbreak and that of the children and see all the harm he has caused, I become angrier and angrier. I may even fantasize about getting a chance to tell him off someday, to bring him to his senses, of course. Of course. Well, no, actually, just to tell him off.
Is it even meaningful to speak of my forgiving him? The notion of a debt, connected repeatedly in Scripture (both in Christ's parables and in the Lord's Prayer) with forgiveness, doesn't seem to apply in such a case. He doesn't owe me a debt, and it would be presumptuous in the extreme for me to forgive him for what he's done to others, as if I could tell him, "You're free of the debt you owe for all the harm you've done to your wife and children."
This question has bothered me for a long time, because psychologically, I think one can get so resentful on others' behalf that one really needs to forgive. It's often said that holding a grudge is a problem chiefly for the harm it does to the soul of one holding the grudge. But how to go about forgiving in such a case?
As I've been reading Marilynne Robinson's novel Gilead and thinking about it for a review, it has seemed to me that I get a little glimpse of the answer. In a sense, the husband in my example has wronged his wife's friends as well as his wife and children. In a sense, he's wronged a whole bunch of people, because he has, we might say, messed up the world by his sin. That sin causes a ripple effect of pain and suffering both in the people he has wronged directly and also in the vicarious suffering taken on by those who love them. In that way, he has wronged me. But this fact, which hardly seems like good news, actually is good news, because, since he has wronged me, I also can have my own small share in forgiving him and in laying aside my resentment--which really can be hatred--and my grudge. That doesn't, of course, mean that he is clean of his sin before God, if he hasn't repented it and turned back, done what he can to make amends, and so forth. But that is between him and God. And if there are costs to be paid with the civil authorities (for example, if we are talking about a crime for which they are to execute justice), that, too, is between him and them. My own forgiveness, however, is made possible both by the grace of God and by the fact of the indirect wrong done to me.