Forgiving those who cause us harm and suffering is a constant battle for most of us. God has forgiven us much, and He expects us to freely forgive others. It is never an easy task.
I have found that whenever I am teaching a particular topic God is faithful to present me with ample opportunities to put into practice what I am teaching!
Teaching on forgiveness can be a tricky thing.
In the model prayer that Jesus gave His disciples in Matthew 6:6-12, we find the statement “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
We often recite the full prayer in unison at Sunday morning services.
Have you ever thought about the implications of that teaching? Surely, if I am asking God to forgive me in the same way as I forgive others, I need to pay close attention to the extent to which I forgive others when they wrong me and cause me to suffer.
For years I was saved from any anxious thoughts about this part of the model prayer. I guess I was simply sliding over it without considering what I actually was saying to God. But then one day, I read on to verses 14 and 15. These are the words of Jesus following that prayer: “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.”
Ouch! There can be no question as to what God is saying to us here. I quickly realized that it was time for me to sit down and meditate on the passage and listen to what God has to say to me about its meaning.
The first thought to come to mind was that this could not possibly be a salvation issue. Why do I say that? Because Ephesians 2:8-9 claims “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Grace in Action
God gives salvation to us, not because of who we are, but because of who He is—not because we are good, but because He is good. That is God’s grace in action!
So then, how am I supposed to interpret Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:14-15 if it is not as a salvation issue?
The person who has been saved must realize the extent of God’s forgiveness of his or her own sins. Once this abundance of forgiveness affects your life, it is impossible to deny that same forgiveness to those who offend you. It’s a natural result of a salvation event. To not have this inward sense of forgiveness within may actually mean that you have never received it—God may have offered it to you, but you refused. You refused the salvation that He offered.
Someone reading this “Illuminations” may realize that he may not be saved. If that is the case, it’s good to recognize it; then fall on your knees, confess your sins and repent—i.e., agree with God that what you have done is sin. Then invite Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior.