But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matt 6:15)
So here is a concept that I am not sure we embrace. According to Jesus we are forgiven in the same measure that we forgive. Definitely not what I wanted to hear. My concept of forgiveness is that God separates all my sins from me as far as the East is from the West, that He forgets my transgressions, and treats me as if I had never thought a single evil thought.
Let’s take a look at one of Jesus’ parables and see if we can get some help. In Matthew 18, which by the way is entirely about forgiveness and restoration of relationships, Jesus tells a parable.
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying,
‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’
So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’
He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 NASB)
This is such a powerful story and demonstrates exactly what Jesus is teaching here. Your ability to forgive demonstrates your understanding of what you have received. When you receive the full pardon for all your trespasses against the Father, and yet do not forgive that which has been done against you, it demonstrates your lack of comprehension of what has been done for you. It actually goes to demonstrate that you have not actually received that forgiveness.
Remember that the forgiveness of God is a free gift, which must be received by faith. Through this faith we see just how completely we need forgiveness, and how completely inadequate our attempts to pay or cover our sin have been. When we demonstrate hatred for others and a vengeful spirit, we demonstrate that we have not received that new nature, we are not born of the Spirit that can set us free. You cannot live in mercy and justice at the same time. When we have received mercy, and can’t give mercy, we walk back into the realm of justice, and undermine the mercy we have received.
Think of it this way. There are only 2 covenants that we can live in. We cannot expect to live in the New Covenant in the mercy of God, and not extend that forgiveness to those around us. [Tweet This]
Come back tomorrow when I answer the question: Can a Christian harbor Unforgiveness?
Come back soon,