“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14,15).
I’ve read the above verses many times. Today, like never before, did I realize the urgency of these words. It’s the most serious and scary business. IF I DO NOT FORGIVE, GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE ME!
When Jesus spoke this he was teaching his disciples about living a life pleasing to God, in what is called the Sermon on the Mount. Preceding this teaching he gave an example on how we ought to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:9-13).
“Forgive us… as we have forgiven.”
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
“Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:21-26).
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:24,25).
On another occasion Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.
One of his servants owed him ten thousand talents, an amount impossible to pay, so the king ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, so he could make the payment. The servant then pleaded with his master to have patience with him, and he would pay everything. Out of pity for him, the king forgave him the debt.
This man found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii… nothing compared to the debt he had been forgiven. He seized him, and began to choke him, demanding that he pay what he owed. But when his fellow servant pleaded for mercy, the forgiven servant refused to listen and put him in prison.
This greatly distressed his fellow servants, so they went and reported it to the king. This made the king very angry. He summoned the servant who would not forgive and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave all your debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have forgiven your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”
In anger the king delivered him to the jailers, until he had paid all his debt, something impossible, because it was a huge debt.
Story to print: 80 The Unforgiving Servant
This is the scary part:
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
“How many times should I forgive?” Peter asked Jesus. Would seven times be enough? No, 70×7! In other words, don’t keep track. Just forgive!
We are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
Norman Cousins says, “Life is an adventure in forgiveness.”
I’ve had many situations that needed forgiving. “Whatever happens, don’t get bitter,” said a friend. I’m glad to say that with God’s help I didn’t get bitter.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).
We can’t get away from hurts. When we least expect it somebody is going to hurt us. Most of the time the process of forgiveness will take time. We all know that it’s not easy to forgive. But it is serious business to think that IF I DO NOT FORGIVE, GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE ME!
Do you have a wound that is festering in your soul? Do you have a hurt that is eating you from within? Let God put the salve of his love on the hurting wound. Pray to Jesus that he will help you to forgive. Whatever it takes, don’t carry around bitterness.
Our most serious business is to forgive.
We must take it seriously!