“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
(Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)
Immediately prior to the words spoken above, Jesus had taught to his disciples the prayer we know as the Lord’s Prayer. In this prayer, he told them to pray: “…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Then, after concluding the prayer, he further explained this petition.
As it’s the only petition he went on to explain in greater detail, this tells us how important it is. As believers, as a people who’ve been forgiven, we are called upon to forgive others. In fact, we are required to do so.
We have to be careful with this statement, that we are required to do so. Forgiving others is not a work by which we merit salvation. However, the fruit of our own forgiveness, the necessary result of the forgiveness granted us by God, is our forgiveness of others.
In fact, if we fail to forgive others, we will not be forgiven. If we don’t extend to others the forgiveness that God has given us, we will not be forgiven. So this, you see, is a matter of grave consequence.
This is also an area where many of us tend to struggle. Although we long desperately for the grace and mercy of God, we are not willing to extend that grace to others. We feel that, instead of granting them forgiveness as an act of grace, they have to become deserving of our forgiveness.
We rationalize this behavior by saying we will not allow others to walk all over us. We rationalize this behavior by saying we have too much self-respect to allow others to treat us poorly. We tell ourselves that, when people wrong us repeatedly, forgiveness is no longer required.
This reveals that we don’t truly understand the gospel. It reveals to us that we don’t truly understand the magnitude of our sin. Understanding the gospel, and believing the gospel, will naturally cause us to extend forgiveness as an act of grace.
The gospel tells us that, because of our sin, we are completely undeserving of God’s blessings. The gospel tells us that God has granted us forgiveness even though we don’t deserve it. The gospel tells us that he’s granted us forgiveness even though we can in no way make it up to him. The gospel tells us that, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God looks upon us as if we haven’t sinned.
It’s this grace that we’re called upon to extend to others. As we’ve been forgiven, we are to forgive. We are called to give grace to those who are undeserving, and to those who have wronged us repeatedly. We are to look upon those who have wronged us as if they haven’t done so.