When we struggle to forgive those who hurt us, we’re encouraged to remember how great God’s forgiveness is for us. Jesus warned that God expects forgiven people to forgive. But what Jesus said about refusing to forgive might feel more than a little disconcerting for those struggling to forgive. Jesus added a warning that those who refuse to forgive should not expect to receive forgiveness from their Heavenly Father.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Is it easier to see ourselves as candidates for God’s forgiveness than to see our offenders as deserving of our forgiveness? This is exactly what Jesus confronted and reversed in his parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Read it.
We all have a tendency to provide larger margins of moral allowance for ourselves (and for those we love as extensions of ourselves) than for others. This is the problem of having clear vision for the splinters in the eyes of others and blindness about the logs in our own eyes (Matthew 7:1-6).
Yet when badly hurt by others, we don’t hit a forgiveness switch and move on. The sting of pain can linger for a long time depending upon the depth of the hurt. We need to hear reminders about how great God’s grace and forgiveness is toward us — but applying them is sometimes more challenging. Listen again to these words calling us to the radical love of our Heavenly Father.
“But love your enemies, do good to them… Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 4:32-5:2).