July 15, 2020
. . . forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).
It is a difficult, but important rule for spiritual growth and maturity that a Christian be willing to, and actually forgive others for the wrongs committed toward them. How can we appreciate and enjoy the forgiveness of God toward us, guilt free, if we do not forgive others? The true Christian cannot. An unforgiving heart is a heart that harbors anger, animosity, and dark and vengeful thoughts toward another person. We can say we forgive, but if in our heart the bitterness and resentment remains, it is proof we have not truly forgiven.
What if the offense is an overwhelming one? We should never forget that our offenses against God cost Jesus Christ His life on a cross. His first words spoken from the cross were, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). He could have called 10,000 angels to rescue Him. But it was not the Father’s will that Jesus be spared His atoning death on Calvary. And because He loves the Father, and loves us as well, He was willing to pay the price for our sin debt.
What is the key to reciprocating forgiveness, as the Father forgives us, we must forgive others? Forgiveness is based not only on who God is and who we are, but is demonstrated because of love, grace, and mercy.
Christians, like our heavenly Father, must love the offender greater than hating the offence. Love compels us to extend grace to the offender. Grace (undeserved favor) extends to someone something they don’t deserve. What does grace, based in love, extend to the offender? Mercy. Not justice, but mercy. Mercy is the ‘misery with which grace deals’ (Marvin Vincent). It is the relief that love and grace brings to the offender and the offended. Isn’t this what Jesus has done for us?
What about verses 14-15? For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Is God’s forgiveness conditional to our forgiving others?
God does not withdraw His love, grace, mercy, or forgiveness based on our unwillingness to extend it to others. God will allow the consequences of our not forgiving others to affect us. We are to confess our sin to the Lord every day in order to be cleansed of that sin (1 John 1:9). If we refuse to confess and repent of sin, even the sin of not forgiving others, God will allow the consequences to return to us. My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:5-7).
“Father, as difficult as it is to forgive others when their words and actions cut deep into my mind, heart, and spirit, continue to keep me humbled before you and others so that I will treat others as I would have them treat me. Show the love of Jesus Christ through me by not harboring bitterness, resentment, or anger against those who come against me. All for Your glory. Amen.”