Unforgiveness, Too Heavy a Load to Bear Part Two

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

 Do you struggle with unforgiveness? Good news! You don’t have to bear that burden any longer. This segment of the Lord’s Prayer calls us to a forgiving spirit, as well as repentance. Read the above verse again. Does Jesus’ teaching assume we will have forgiven before we ask for forgiveness? It seems so. Whatever God requires of us, He will accomplish in and through us. Wycliff Bible says, “A forgiving spirit is made easier for Christians when they consider how much God has already forgiven.” Forgiveness truly is the benchmark of the Christian faith.

And then there’s Matthew 6:14-15. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Have you been confused by these verses? So have I.

 In Isaiah 1:18, God invites us to reason with Him concerning our sins. This is one of those times. So, in light of God’s character and His Word, let’s reason.

God doesn’t expect us to bear the load of our own forgiveness. Nor would He place on us the fear of losing it. Jesus died to relieve us from the burden of sin, not to add to it. The Wycliff Bible Commentary reminds us “Forgiveness of sin, whether under Mosaic law or in the Church, is always by God’s grace and based on Christ’s atonement.”

Think about this. How many of our sins were in the future when Jesus died? All of them! We’ve already been forgiven for our past, present and future sins. Therefore, we never have to beg for forgiveness. It’s a gift. Nor do we need to worry about God ever rescinding His forgiveness.

Let’s reason in light of God’s love based on His grace, unmerited favor. Can we conclude our forgiveness doesn’t depend upon what we do or don’t do? God’s character doesn’t allow Him to negate His Word. In fact, it is His Word that keeps us from sinning.

What then does Matthew 6:14-15 mean? Jesus is teaching believers how to pray. Therefore, He refers to our fellowship with God, not our relationship with Him. Our relationship with God is secured by what He accomplished on the cross. Our redemption! Our fellowship with God depends upon how we respond to His Word on a moment-by-moment basis. Both are matters of faith. Initially, we accept God’s forgiveness by faith. Experientially, by faith we allow God to forgive others through us.

In his study, The Issue of Forgiveness in the Sermon on the Mount, Greg Herrick states, “. . . when Jesus says that the Father will not forgive, what He means is that God will allow the person to walk in their sin—that is, He will not overlook it and embrace the person—to the necessary extent; until they come face to face with it and see it for what it is.” He also says out of love for the person, God’s intention is to “expose him, to bring about legitimate shame and repulsiveness toward the sin. It is a rare blend of justice and mercy. . . . The result will often be Spirit-inspired, genuine repentance and love.”

The Greek word for forgiveness means to let be, lay aside, put away. By reasoning, can we assume the following? For our own good, God won’t let our sin be. That is, until we’re ready to let go the sin against us. It makes sense, doesn’t it?  This is the only way we’re free to enjoy our own forgiveness.

What about the other person in this scenario? We may never be restored to the one who’s hurt us. But we no longer have to struggle with God’s discipline. We can confess our sin of unforgiveness to Him. Next, we can ask for and allow Him to give us a forgiving spirit.

You may wonder if we should go to this person for restitution. God will let us know what we should do about that. His Word tells us to live at peace with all people. That is, as far as it depends upon us. Our responsibility is to forgive. The other person is God’s responsibility, not ours. God measures our faith by our willingness to be forgiven and to forgive.

Is forgiveness the benchmark of your Christian walk? It can be!

Note: Greg Herrick holds a Th.M. and Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary. You can find his article at Bible.org.

*You’ll find the scriptures relating to this post in the Crumbs section.


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