This morning the group of guys I meet with talked about forgiveness. It’s an essential element in being a follower of Jesus Christ. Even though it’s not mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit, I believe it would be safe to call it one.
There are two facets of forgiveness that needs to take place in a person’s life for it to be complete. A willingness to forgive and a willingness to ask for forgiveness. Without these forgiveness cannot to experiences or completed in a person’s life. For example God is a forgiving God. He wants to forgive all people of theirs sin so that they may have fellowship with Him, receive the gift of eternal life and become a citizen in His Kingdom. However, all these things cannot take place until an individual asks for His forgiveness. There will be many people that will be going to hell that God was willing to forgive but He couldn't because they didn't ask. And by their not asking, forgiveness was never made complete in their lives.
When we read Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness there is the giver and the asker. In the parable of the unmerciful servant we see this giver and asker. (Matt. 18:21-35, Luke 17:3-4) Now as far as the giver is concerned Jesus wants us to maintain the same disposition as the Father even if someone doesn't ask. (Matt. 6:12, Mark 11:25) because that is how He is towards all humanity. So that if or when that person seek forgiveness for the wrong they have done you would acted in the same way as our heavenly father would, forgive. Not just out of duty but from the heart, with all sincerity. Also the asker must ask from the heart. Not begrudgingly but sincerely.
Does this attitude of forgiveness mean we stay silent about sin? No. Jesus told people to repent, which means to change. Change from what? Change from a sinful life to a godly life. However for this change to be genuine there had to be a willingness to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness.
Jesus and the Father could know what was in a person’s heart. They knew when to declare a person forgiven even if they didn't verbalize it. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that he forgave her and told her to stop sinning. (John 8) He told the religious leaders of his time to stop sinning and when he was on the cross he was willing to forgive them. (Luke 23:34) But that forgiveness would never be complete in their lives until they admitted to the wrong they did and were willing to change and follow Him.
In people to people forgiveness, we need to verbalize our confessions, one to another, because the last I checked we can’t read each other’s minds. (Luke 17:3-4)
So we need to maintain a willingness to forgive if we say we love Him.
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.