14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Consider this. You commit a sin and take it to the Lord. “Father, forgive me for I have sinned.”
God rejects your request. “NO. I won’t forgive you.”
You’re dumbfounded and protest. “But Lord, your word says You are faithful to forgive.”
And God responds, “That’s true. I am faithful to forgive. So go forgive that person you have refused to forgive and come back to me and I will forgive you.”
“Who is it, Lord? Who have I failed to forgive?”
“Oh. Him. How could I ever forgive him?”
As Christians, we often assume that God will forgive our sins. A simple blanket confession is all it takes and instant forgiveness. But Jesus warned us that there is something that can hinder God’s forgiveness. Jesus said, “… if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Jesus makes no distinctions on a particular class or degree of sin that is exempt from our requirement to forgive others. In fact, He places forgiveness ahead of worship in our spiritual priorities.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
Notice too that the emphasis in Matthew 5 is on those who have something against us. God wants us to strive for reconciliation in all of our relationships. That means forgiving others who have sinned against us and seeking forgiveness from those we have offended.
Of all the things God expects of us, the command to forgive may well be the hardest. The cruelty and horrendous acts of others hurt us deeply.
You don’t have to look far to find someone who has been treated miserably. The one who grew up in an abusive household, seeing her mother beaten or having been abused herself. The parent whose child was killed by a drunk driver. And it goes on and on. Unthinkable crimes and hurtful actions that leave behind a lifetime of pain.
But just like everything else God expects of us, He equips us and empowers us to follow His commands. The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13) Paul acknowledged that there were many things God expected of him that he could not do without God’s help. If you will commit to forgiving that person who has severely wronged you, God will help you honor that commitment. Trust Him for the fortitude to forgive.
Jesus is the perfect model for forgiveness. From the cross, as His murderers mocked and ridiculed Him, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Consider all the sins you have committed in your lifetime. Yet, God forgave you. In Colossians 3:13, Paul writes, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
God’s forgiveness is essential in our lives. Without it we are out of fellowship with Him and hinder His work, deny ourselves answers to prayer, and block the flow of His blessings. It’s like locking the door and refusing to let God in.
God wants to forgive your daily sins and keep you clean for His purposes and for the good work He wants to do in you and for you. Why deny yourself from those amazing blessings by refusing to forgive?
Is there someone you need to forgive now? Don’t put it off. Make a commitment to forgive and ask the Lord to give you the strength to make it happen.
For more on this topic, check out this article: The Extent of the Lord’s Forgiveness
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.