On Forgiveness

During the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus gave us a model for prayer, it goes as follows.

“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:9-15.

Without question the Lord’s Prayer is one of the most memorized portions of Scripture in the Bible, and yet it is little understood. Rather than being meant to be quoted mindlessly over and over as our prayer, it is a model for our own prayers.

Notice that Jesus tells us first, “In this manner” to pray.

It is divided into four parts, first, God is glorified, next we acknowledge that He is Lord (“Your will be done”), then we make our requests be known to Him, finally it is ended with a note of praise.

The word amen is a very strong assertion – so be it. Using this model prayer can be as beautiful and intense as anything you might find in an English garden.

Look, though, at verses 14-15, your prayers and indeed your whole Christian walk will be affected by these two verses. Jesus tells us here that we need to forgive men for their trespasses against us before our heavenly Father will forgive us our trespasses.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses [against you], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses [against God].” Matthew 6:14-15.

Bear in mind here that Jesus is not talking about salvation. Once an individual accepts Christ as his Savior it is a done deal. You cannot accept Christ as your Savior today and then sin tomorrow and get thrown into hell the next day.

The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin, past, present and future. Rather the above verses refer to the quality of our present life here on earth.

An example may give some idea of how this works. Let us say you do something profoundly stupid at work, the first place you go is before the Father in prayer.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10.

You might pray something like this, “Dear Father I have sinned and done something evil (or dumb) and I confess this to You, please, don’t let me lose my job over this. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”

Watch the Lord work, you may go through a storm or it may end up just a whisper, but you will be stunned at the results.

What if, though, your immediate supervisor is someone who was promoted over you, and you hate them for it, perhaps even though they were more qualified for the job?

If you will not forgive this person for their trespass against you (real or imagined), what should God’s response be to your prayer?

Jesus gives an example of this in Matthew 18:21-35.

There was a certain king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. While doing so he came across a servant who owed him somewhere between 580,000 to 800,000 pounds of gold or silver, unspecified, i.e. 10,000 talents.

Jesus used this outrageous number to remind us of the tremendous debt He paid for us on the cross.

The servant could not pay this staggering debt so the king ordered that he and his family be sold, along with all his belongings to repay what was owed.

The servant begged the king for time to pay it back and in pity the king forgave the debt completely. The servant then went out and found a man who owed him about fifteen dollars (100 denarii) and demanded payment.

The man could not pay so he begged for a little time to repay the debt. The man however had no mercy and put the poor fellow into debtor’s prison.

Well, the king got wind of this and in great anger sent for the wicked servant and asked him why, after all the king had forgiven him, he could not show mercy on his fellow man, and he delivered the servant to the torturers until he should pay all.

The last verse sums it up as follows.

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Matthew 18:35.

Notice how the Lord brings it up a notch by saying that we have to forgive our brother from the heart. This is very difficult.

The incident that brought Jesus’ words up in Matthew 18:35 was Peter’s question shown here next.

“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘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.’” Matthew 18:21-22.

This large number, 490, really implies a question, why are you keeping count?

The humble and contrite heart cannot exhaust the grace of God. Why should it exhaust ours? Consider this though.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16.

Jesus tells us to be forgiving but He also tells us to be wise, if a person continues to sin against us, especially in a willful or even malicious manner, would it be wise to avoid them if possible?

When it comes to being unforgiving, I have to move to the front of the line here. Oh, I have done pretty well, I have forgiven many of the offenses in my life and I continue to make progress, but.

How often have you laid awake at night tormented by the one who made your life miserable in your youth, but you have the power now, you grab them and shove them feet first into a rock crusher, and laugh maniacally as they scream. “Take that you fool! That will teach you not to take my lunch in third grade!” And still you wrestle with sleeplessness.

And the next night, there is that beady eyed, pug nose little brute sneering at you as he robs you of your lunch. And the cycle continues.

Would it not be ironic if as an adult that kid lies awake at night regretting the vile things he did in school, what if he wishes he could apologize to you and is tormented because he cannot find you? But that is the simple stuff is it not?

Some of you have gone through unspeakable things; things that make this kid look like an annoying pimple.

The Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard kidnappings are a view into how horrifying things can be in life, so please do not think I am being trite or glib when I speak of forgiveness.

In fact please add them to your prayer list if you have one, for their salvation and they will need superhuman power to be released from the bondage in their souls.

You too will need superhuman strength to overcome the anger directed at those who tormented you. God will not ask you to do something without giving you the strength to do it.

A typical mistake some folks make is to think that people get away with the things they have done to you. That is not true; the men that did horrible things to the young ladies mentioned above are likely to spend eternity in hell, an eternity in a rock crusher!

It is not necessary for you or these girls to punish those perverted offenders; you will only burn up your own stomach lining and suffer anxiety over it. In a sense you are giving them power over you to continue tormenting you.

“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19.

This is easier read and said than done. Do you believe in God? Is He a liar or is He just incompetent? You must take Him at His word if you want to forgive all who have offended you. True forgiveness will bring peace to your soul.

Again, this will not be easy and you must not be too hard on yourself if you fail to forgive immediately. It took time to mess you up, and it will take time to fix you. BUT GOD IS ABLE.

Now, take a look at another aspect of this subject, Jesus said the following.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:25-26.

Now contrast this with this next verse.

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24.

The first passage tells us to forgive others as we pray and the second set tells us that if our brother has anything against us we are to drop everything and go and get reconciled with our brother.

Ironic is it not? While we are avenging ourselves on someone as we lay in bed, somewhere else another may see our face as they scream out their anger at us.

If you, Christian, are tormented by memories of someone you have offended, but where they are is unknown to you now, confess the sin to God and leave it at His feet and He will forgive you and carry the load.

None of us is above reproach, none of has the moral high ground; this is why the Lord tenderly whispers these words in our ear.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32.

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Colossians 3:12-13.

Dear God, how happy we would be if we would only obey our Father to forgive.

It goes without saying that husbands and wives need to practice forgiveness for the marriage’s sake and for the children.

Perhaps one of the most helpful things that can be done in a marriage is to determine not to take something immediately as an insult or affront, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.

You should do this for your friends and co-workers too; everyone says or does something stupid, maybe it was just a horrible mistake.

Give them time to apologize before going off the deep end, especially if it is out of character for this person. If someone has always exhibited kindness, why would they suddenly insult you?

Maybe there is a reason, or not, you may never know if the screaming starts before the explanation. It might keep us from having to do a lot of forgiving later on.

If you offend someone, apologize right away. The longer you wait the harder it will be to do. This is from personal experience.

Infidelity or a critical attitude, or just plain sadistic/mean spiritedness in a marriage may take more than a sit down talk; if it does, seek a marriage counselor, preferably a Christian counselor.

Not an untrained pastor especially if he is single or too young to have lived through a long marriage. Some of these guys do more damage than good.

Finally, and this is for the men, though the wives should take note of it too.

“Likewise you husbands, likewise, dwell with them [the wives] with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7.

There are many pious husbands today who go into church and fool everyone into thinking that they are good husbands, while inside they are bitter and angry at their wives, or perhaps they think that she is beneath them.

Have you wondered why your prayer life is abysmal; the answer may be in the verse above. If you do not live with them, giving them honor and understanding, knowing their weaknesses, your prayers will be hindered. If you do not forgive them, how will God forgive you?

“Pursue peace with all men [husbands and wives too], and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…” Hebrews 12:14-15.

There are two prayers I can guarantee will be answered. One is the prayer of salvation.

“And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Joel 2:32a.

“…the one who comes to Me [Jesus] I will by no means cast out.” John 6:37b.

The other prayer would be a petition for God’s help in forgiving someone and for help in staying close to God.

Notice that the earlier verses in Hebrews have the words pursue and diligently.

These are important words. Pursue here has the idea of a relentless, single minded pursuit. Kind of like a movie with John Wayne pursuing the men who killed his wife and child. Pursue peace with that same diligence.

Likewise, diligence has much of the same impact, persevering attention, looking carefully. You can loaf through the Christian life but without diligence you will miss a lot.

God is a God of love and a God of forgiveness and He wants us to have the same mind as we find in the Lord Jesus.

God wants to bless us and lead us to lie down in green pastures, He wants to bring us to still waters, He wants to restore our souls, but we have to want that.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3.

Do you believe this?

On Forgiveness taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 8-14-18, updated on 3-31-23.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

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