“as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Suddenly, and for the first time, a condition appears. Where God’s love is unconditional, and where salvation cannot be earned but can only be accepted and lived, it appears that now something more is required of us. It is so important that Jesus went on, after teaching His disciples the prayer, to enlarge upon it,
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Both here, and in other teachings of Jesus, the message is quite clear. If we are to carry on receiving the unmerited and complete forgiveness of God we must not then presume to continue to hold anything against somebody else. If God is prepared to forgive us all and everything then we must be prepared to pass that love and forgiveness on to others, and in the same spirit.
Peter asked Jesus,
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
That is, without limit.
There are a few important points to highlight:
• We sin – therefore we need to be fully forgiven by God – every day!
• Others sin – and need to be fully forgiven by God – every day.
• If we want God’s ongoing forgiveness then we have to be prepared to forgive – or at least work towards forgiving – those who have hurt or offended us. Sometimes it is not easy and takes much prayer and perseverance. Remember, as you battle to forgive someone that someone else may be battling to forgive you! (Hullo!!!) That means me too!
• Not to forgive others creates a hardness in our hearts that stands between us and God as much as it does between us and others. Jesus, who came to reconcile us to God, seeks to reconcile us to others as well.
• We are not entitled to withhold forgiveness until the other person comes and grovels before us! Jesus is our great example.
“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:33-34)
Finally, we are so incomparably rich in the love, grace and forgiveness of God – why should we then act as if we were impoverished frowns? It might mean that we haven’t yet appreciated the great love of God – for love and forgiveness travel hand in hand.
Examine yourself for people against whom you hold a grudge. Ask God to help you. Say your forgiveness of them aloud and ask God to bless them.
Father you great heart longs to forgive me – please help me to open myself to You more by forgiving others, in Jesus name. Amen.