A heart of forgiveness
Truly forgiving those who do us harm is one of the most challenging things. But holding onto hurt and having an unforgiving heart can often do more harm to us than the original offence. Not forgiving others can lead to bitterness and some have even described it as drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die. Our forgiveness has to go beyond mere words.
CS Lewis said: “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive”.
Jesus placed great importance on our need to forgive those who wrongfully treat us and He even makes forgiveness the subject of one of the seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer.
And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. – Matthew 6:12
If you were forgiven of your wrongdoings in the exact same way and using the measure by which you forgive those who do bad things against you, would you be happy? Would you be forgiven?
The Jewish readers of Matthew would have understood this far more than we do today. They understood that Jesus was speaking about cancelling the debt of sin rather than just money, as some have mistaken this to be.
In the beatitudes Jesus said:
Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. – Matthew 5:11
But what if that mercy found it’s limit by the amount of mercy we are prepared to offer? What if we were only forgiven by God to the same measure with which we forgive others?
Jesus makes His intentions clear in a parable he told after Peter asked him about forgiveness. He spoke about a servant who was forgiven of a huge debt of ten thousand talents. He immediately went out and failed to show the same mercy to another servant who owed him a much smaller debt of a hundred denarii. When the master heard about this, his reaction shows us God’s view.
Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” – Matthew 18:32-35
It is God’s will to forgive us for our sins, but this can be altered if we have an unforgiving heart toward those who sin against us.
The fact that we should forgive those who sin against us is clear and it is necessary if we hope to have our sins forgiven. It is a basic need which is common to all of us, because we all have sinned. I believe the frequency at which we should seek this basic need is also mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer.
Give us this day our daily bread – Matthew 6:11
Our daily bread speaks of our basic needs and forgiveness of sin has to fall into that category. For this basic need to be met, we must first perform our basic duty to show love toward our enemies and offer forgiveness.
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. – Matthew 5:44.
The need to forgive is not only driven by our desire to be forgiven, but it is a command which runs throughout scripture. Our greatest reason to show forgiveness toward others, is because we have been forgiven so much by Christ.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
So today, we should be honest with ourselves, go beyond simply saying the words and find a way to let go of the painful memories which keep us from true forgiveness and which only cause bitterness. Remember how much we have been forgiven and how much we need forgiveness on a daily basis. We receive complete forgiveness, so we should completely forgive others, in the same way and by the same measure in which we are forgiven.