Forgive to be Forgiven?

Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors … 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 6:12, 14 ESV

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image from Tenebrae Service, Good Friday 2010, Blythe Island Baptist Church

Do you think God really meant that?   Am I really only forgiven as much as I am forgiving?

Remember the parable of the man whose great debt the king forgave?  That man, who had been forgiven so much, demanded payment of  a very small debt by another.   The king, angered by the man’s actions, declared, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you?”

The man was sent to jail until he could pay his debt to the king. And Jesus explained, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  (from Matthew 18:23-35)

We want to be forgiven for the blackness of our sin, for the selfishness that consumes our hearts, the pride that reigns in our minds, the callousness that spills out from our mouths, the lack of compassion evidenced by our actions.

Yet, we also want to hold on to the anger and hurt and bitterness … the times someone has treated us badly, spoken thoughtless words, failed to count the cost of actions and how it would affect others.

We want to demand evidence of change from others before we bestow our forgiveness upon them.  We want to see that they grasp the fullness of their deeds before we mercifully grant them grace.

We’re like that servant praying for forgiveness of a debt we could never pay in a thousand lifetimes and then withholding forgiveness to someone who has owes us far less.

And it matters.  In fact, it matters so much that Jesus makes it clear on multiple occasions in several situations that HOW we forgive others is HOW we will be forgiven by God.

We are forgiven boundlessly, eternally, with nothing held back … forgiven and granted restoration.

What kind of forgiveness are we offering others?

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus replied, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”   Matthew 18:21-22

Over and over and over … that’s how we beg for mercy and forgiveness from God.

Over and over and over … that’s how we are commanded to extend mercy and forgiveness to others.

We’ve been forgiven.

And so, we must forgive.

Do you struggle with forgiveness?  In what ways do these verses challenge you?

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2 Replies to “Forgive to be Forgiven?”

  1. […]  We say things without thinking and we miss opportunities to serve and love.  We face the need to forgive, to let go, or to harbor the […]

  2. […] hurt.  We say things without thinking and we miss opportunities to serve and love.  We face the need to forgive, to let go, or to harbor the […]

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