Forgiveness is something that each of us has had to deal with in one way or another. When we refuse to deal with bitterness and resentment that puts us in bondage, we cannot have the fellowship with our Father that we are supposed to have.
As part of His teachings on the need for human forgiveness, Jesus states that a condition of receiving God’s forgiveness is to forgive others.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Paul reminded the Ephesians, “and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Eph.4:32.
Once we understand the depth of our sin and the distance it puts between us and God and once we see the sacrifice that God made to restore fellowship with us, we should not hesitate to forgive.
In Matt. 18:23-35 Jesus tells this story; The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him $10 million, literally, “10,000 talents.” He couldn’t pay, so the king ordered him sold for the debt, also his wife and children and everything he had. “But the man fell down before the king, his face in the dust, and said, “Oh, sir, be patient with me and I will pay it all.” Then the king was filled with pity for him and released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a man who owed him $2,000 and grabbed him by the throat and demanded immediate payment. The man fell down before him and begged him to give him a little time. “Be patient and I will pay it,” he pled. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt would be paid in full. Then the man’s friends went to the king and told him what had happened. The king called before him the man he had forgiven and said, “You evil-hearted man! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me, shouldn’t you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every penny due. Jesus concludes by saying, “so shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers.”
The unmerciful servant found his own attitude of unforgiveness returned to him. We must not be that kind of person¬—quick to condemn, unwilling to forgive, unable to show compassion. Instead, we must be like Christ—who overlooks our unintended weaknesses, begs us to repent of our known sins, and eagerly forgives us when we confess our wrongdoing, even though he knows we will regrettably sin again, then ask for forgiveness again.
When we hear this parable, we become self-righteous and say how could anyone be so ungrateful? The believer who will not forgive another is even more guilty than this slave. If we understood how much of a debt we owe God, we would begin to realize how petty even the worst debts we are owed truly are. God’s forgiveness is much greater and more precious than whatever forgiveness we are tempted to withhold from those who have wronged us.
We must realize that we have been forgiven of a debt that we could never repay and therefore we have no ground to stand on when we refuse to forgive others. It is a dangerous thing to be unwilling to forgive.
Two little brothers had finished supper and were playing until bedtime. Somehow one hit the other with a stick. Bitter words followed and tears flowed. Charges and accusations were still being exchanged as they got ready for bed. The mother said, “now Sam you need to forgive your brother.” Sam thought for a minute and said, “ok, I’ll forgive him tonight, but if I’m alive tomorrow he had better watch out.” This is amusing, but it shows us once a person asked for forgiveness, we must let it go.
Many have the attitude, “If you’ll act right, and pay the right price, I’ll consider forgiving you.” However, we forget the fact that, we must forgive the penitent brother, not in order for him to be saved, but in order for us to be saved—not in order for him to go to heaven, but in order for us to go to heaven! God only forgives us when we are willing to forgive others.
Those whom we have forgiven can be a tool in our lives to help us in our growth and understanding of God’s grace. Joseph understood this principle. Even though his brothers committed a great wrong against him, he was still able to forgive. They were viewed as the way to get him to Egypt, where he would be in position to save his people when a famine struck. His brothers were fearful of what he might do. They expected him to exact revenge, but Joseph was not vengeful. He told them not to be afraid, that he would nourish them and their children. He comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Forgiveness is hard. It is a process that can be painful. Whatever our pain, whatever our situation, we cannot afford to hold on to an unforgiving spirit. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”