“If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Mt. 6:14)
Jesus spoke these words immediately after giving the disciples the Lord’s Prayer, apparently to highlight the importance of the petition on forgiveness — “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In other words, we can’t expect God to forgive us of our sins against him and his Word if we are not forgiving others of their sins against us.
When Peter asked how many times we should forgive, Jesus said “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Mt. 18:22) Jesus then shares the parable of the unforgiving servant who, after having his debt forgiven by his master, did not do the same with a fellow servant. When his master learns of this he responds, “You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” (Mt. 18:21- 35) Finally, we remember the example of Jesus’ unforgettable words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Forgiveness is absolutely essential for the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth.
Without God’s grace, our nature is not to forgive. We hold a grudge or seek revenge for wrongs committed against us, “an eye for an eye.” But unforgiveness is like a cancer. It gives rise to anger and resentment, robbing us of our peace and affecting us as negatively as the original wrong that may have been committed against us. This effect applies to groups, tribes and nations as well as individuals, and has led to a never ending cycle of violence throughout human history.
Many years ago a friend and I joined the music group playing our guitars for a Saturday evening mass at a small parish in New York. After a couple of months we were abruptly asked to leave without any explanation. We were naturally angered by this summary dismissal. We brooded for several months. At a Christmas Eve mass during the sign of the peace, I walked over to the music group and offered the sign of peace to the leader, which led to an embrace. The leader and I became close Christian friends, and even though we no longer live in the same locality, still stay in touch. My guitar playing friend continued to brood. That was more than 40 years ago.
Are you brooding over a past hurt or wrong that God is waiting for you to forgive?