"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Matthew 6:12.
Life is not always easy or fair and people often do things either intentionally or unintentionally, that upset us. So what are we to do about it? Do we turn around and have a go at them? Do we turn the other cheek? Or is there something else we can do?
Firstly we need to keep in mind that nobody is perfect :-
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" Romans 3:23.
As we have all sinned we cannot expect perfection from anyone. This is one reason why in the Lord's prayer we are told to ask God to forgive us our wrongs in the same way we forgive others (see text under heading.)
We may well ask the question, what happens when we don't forgive others? Let us read a little further down in Matthew chapter 6.
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:14, 15.
Therefore if we don't forgive others the wrongs they do us, God will not forgive us our wrongs or sins. That means that we will have to pay the penalty for our sins :-
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23.
Without God's forgiveness we are sinners who deserve nothing less than eternal death. But Jesus Christ has offered us hope and salvation. By accepting Him and His offer of pardon He expects us to pardon or forgive the sins of others. If we cannot or will not do this it shows that we have not truly accepted Jesus Christ as our Saviour and are not partakers of God’s pardoning grace.
"Nothing can justify an unforgiving spirit. He who is unmerciful toward others shows that he himself is not a partaker of God’s pardoning grace. In God’s forgiveness the heart of the erring one is drawn close to the great heart of Infinite Love. The tide of divine compassion flows into the sinner’s soul, and from him to the souls of others. The tenderness and mercy that Christ has revealed in His own precious life will be seen in those who become sharers of His grace. . . . It is true that he may once have received forgiveness; but his unmerciful spirit shows that he now rejects God’s pardoning love. He has separated himself from God, and is in the same condition as before he was forgiven. He has denied his repentance, and his sins are upon him as if he had not repented." Christ Object Lessons by E. G. White, page 251 par. 1 & 2.
So it is our Christian duty to freely and fully forgive anyone what they have done. But how many times do we have to forgive someone for the wrongs they do? Peter asked this question of Jesus Christ :-
"Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." Matthew 18:21, 22.
In Peter's day it was a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more than three times. So saying seven times Peter thought that he was really going the extra mile. But, Jesus took it much further by saying seventy times seven. I am not sure if you could keep a mental record of 490 times of forgiving one person, but I certainly could not. Therein lies the true meaning of Christ. We are never to cease forgiving others.
So let us all take a good look at our lives. Is there someone who has upset us in some way or maybe someone we have upset? Why not go and make it right with them? If we cannot do it in person, write a letter to them asking the Holy Spirit to go with our letter. Then when we have sought forgiveness from our brethren, seek it from God also.
It is my hope that as Christians we will put our disagreements behind us and move forward in God's grace.
© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2013. Last updated July, 2020.
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