“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 6:14-15 ESV)
Over the past two days we studied the sample prayer given by Jesus to His disciples commonly known as the “The Lord’s Prayer”. One of the requests Jesus included in that prayer was a request for God to forgive us of our sins. As sort of postscript, He expands on the topic of forgiveness in today’s verses. He will have more to say about it later on in Matthew’s gospel.
God has given His children many gifts, not the least of which is forgiveness [Ephesians 1:7]. He then calls upon us to show forgiveness towards others.
The Greek word translated “forgive” here is απηιεμι (pronounced: af-ee’-ay-mee). This word creates a great picture of what forgiveness is. It means “to leave behind; to jettison”. When we forgive we dismiss from our mind any negative thoughts about the hurt we’ve received. We don’t plot revenge or allow our lives to be negatively affected. This is exactly how God forgives us.
When God forgives He remembers our sins no more. They are at the bottom of the ocean [Micah 7:19]. They are as far from Him as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12]. He never holds them against us. Instead, He continues to love us and care for us. We are to show the same type of forgiveness to others.
But notice that God does not force us to do this. Jesus said “if” we forgive others. We can choose to forgive if we want. But like any choice in life this one comes with consequences.
If we want to experience God’s forgiveness we must forgive other people. That is how forgiveness works. It must be given away to be experienced.
God has forgiven us greatly. When we stop to reflect on the enormous price God paid to forgive us – the death of His only son – we see the depth of our sin. In comparison, any harm done to us by others (either real or imagined) is miniscule.
However, when we overstate the injury done to us by others, we tend to minimize our own sin and as a result, we don’t experience the liberating forgiveness God has bestowed up on us.
Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us that His disciples – born-again believers who have put their faith in Him for the forgiveness of their sins [John 1:12, 3:3] – are the light of the world [Matthew 5:14-16]. We are to shine God’s light onto others. Our lives are to reflect God and show the world what God is like. There is no better and more meaningful way to do that than to forgive.
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