Friday, August 21
Apostles' Creed Focus
“the forgiveness of sins”
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. - Matthew 6:14-15
Sometimes, certain truths from the Bible are difficult to stomach. It’s hard to read this and not think, “Wait, I’m not forgiven if I don’t forgive?” Is this some sort of loophole that can keep me from God’s grace? I think the answer is “yes” and “no”. Clearly, Jesus made this very plain statement. And truth is truth whether or not we’re comfortable with it or not. He didn’t say that the Father can’t forgive our sins, but that He will choose not to if we choose not to forgive others. In a way, it feels like He’s being stingy with His grace. Since that’s not consistent with His character, let’s look at some other possibilities.
Think of the parable Jesus used to teach this truth in Matthew 18. The servant who owed more money than he could pay back in a lifetime was forgiven his debt. He then responded by choking another servant who owed him chump change. The master caught wind of the servant’s lack of grace and he overturned his decision and handed him over to be tortured in jail. The last verse in this chapter is important. It says, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
One possibility for the Father’s stance on not forgiving us when we don’t forgive is because we aren’t truly humbling ourselves before Him. We’re saying, “Sure. I’m all for being forgiven, but don’t ask me to forgive.” We can’t fully surrender to him, with our fists clenched because of bitterness toward others. As an outsider, the story of the servant seems ridiculous. We can clearly see that the servant is wrong. But can we see our own bitterness and double-standards as clearly?
Another possibility is that God is extending grace by requiring us to forgive because bitterness is like poison. Usually, our lack of forgiveness hurts us much more than it does the person who has wronged us. They’re typically not the ones lying awake at night thinking of ways to get revenge. We are. Because we can’t forgive. God wants us to be free of that bitterness that causes us to sin and keeps us from having a right relationship with Him.
Is it possible that the reason has to do with the fact that we call him Father? If you’re a parent, you probably have some rules that your kids don’t understand. I spend a lot of time saying things like, “We can talk about why later. Right now you just need to listen to me because you don’t know what’s safe and what’s not.” When we come to rules like this in the Bible, let’s not spend a bunch of time asking why. He’s God and He gets to make the rules. Maybe He’ll explain it all later. Right now, we just have to listen because he knows what’s good for us and what’s not.
Pastor Keith drove an important point home in his sermon last weekend. He said, “We get better at forgiveness when we dwell on the cross.” If we truly understand what was done on the cross for our sins, it’s much, much easier to forgive others.
Lord, help me forgive. Keep my eyes on you so I can let go of my bitterness that causes me to sin. I know you are extending grace by commanding me to forgive. Help me remember that when forgiveness is difficult. You did the impossible to forgive me. The least I can do is something difficult in return. Thank you God. Amen.
Verses for Further Reflection
Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4: 31-32, Mark 11:25