All Bible texts are from the King James Version.
Scripture clearly tells us over and over again that God is merciful and forgiving:-
"The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." Exodus 34:6, 7.
"(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;)" Deuteronomy 4:31.
"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful." Luke 6:36.
"If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." Psalm 130:3, 4.
We are also told quite emphatically that if we confess our sins to Jesus Christ He and He alone will forgive us our sins :-
"..the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 7, 9.
Yet how many Christians think this is the end of the whole matter. I have heard so many Christians saying things like, "Oh! So and so did such and such to me. It was so horrible and traumatising. He/she is not sorry for what he/she did, and I can never forgive them."
But is this truly the Christian way? Is this what Jesus would have done?
Remember what Jesus said when He was being nailed to the cross :-
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Luke 23:32.
Jesus came to this world to seek and save those who were lost in their sins, to forgive them their sins, show them a better way, and ask them to accept this better way of life. As hard as it might be sometimes, part of the better way of life is to forgive others what they have done to us :-
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Matthew 6:12.
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32.
"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." Colossians 3:13.
But how often should we forgive our brother/sister for the wrong things they do to us? Peter asked Jesus this same question.
"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.
The rabbis of Peter's time had limited forgiveness to three times. So Peter thought that extending it to seven times, seven signifying perfection, was far more Christ like. But Christ showed that even that was woefully inadequate. Each and every time our brethren sin against us we are to forgive them.
But why is this so important for Christians to follow?
"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.
"And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses." Mark 11:25, 26.
"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:" Luke 6:37.
"We are not forgiven because we forgive, but as we forgive. The ground of all forgiveness is found in the unmerited love of God, but by our attitude toward others we show whether we have made that love our own. Wherefore Christ says, "With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Matt. 7:2." Christ Object Lessons by E. G. White, p. 251 par. 4.
Jesus told a parable about this very subject in Matthew 18:21-35 :-
"Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took [him] by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
"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. But "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." Rom. 8:9. He is alienated from God, fitted only for eternal separation from Him.
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, p. 251 par. 1 & 2.
Do we have an unforgiving, unmerciful spirit towards others showing that we are separated from God, or do we reveal God's grace in our life by following Christ's example and the instructions found in His holy Word quickly, willingly, freely forgiving everyone who has wronged us either deliberately or unintentionally, slightly or is some major way.
"But the great lesson of the parable lies in the contrast between God's compassion and man's hardheartedness; in the fact that God's forgiving mercy is to be the measure of our own. 'Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?'" Christ Object Lessons by E. G. White, p. 251 par. 3.
© S. D. Goeldner
© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2011. Last updated October, 2017.
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