Must We Forgive?

One of the hardest things to do is to forgive. When someone does us wrong, the first thing we want is retribution. We want the other person to pay for what they did to us. But is this what God wants for us? Does God want us to hold grudges until we get what we want? Is this what God did?

We Are Forgiven As We Forgive

Jesus taught us a very important law when He gave us what we call “the Lords Prayer.” One of the ways that He told us to pray is found Matthew 6:12 (NIV): “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Many people believe that this just has to do with money. However, if we understand meaning of the Greek word translated “debt” we get a very different meaning.

The Greek word is “opheilema” and it means “something owed.” It comes from another Greek word “opheilo” that means “to be under obligation, morally to fail in duty.” So it really means that we are asking God to forgive us of anything that we have done wrong against Him.

The next word is a small, but very important word, “as.” This comes from the Greek word “ws” and means “in the same way or in the same manner.” This says very clearly that we are asking God to forgive us in the same way, or to the same extent, that we are willing to forgive others.

After Jesus gave us the “Lord’s Prayer,” He emphasized forgiveness by saying in Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV): “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.”

In other words, if we are not willing to forgive others of something they did against us, we are telling God that He does not have to forgive us either. Did you realize that is what you are saying when you recite the “Lords Prayer?”

Unforgiveness Stems From Bitterness

Why are you not willing to forgive someone? The answer always lies in the fact that you have bitterness in your heart toward that person. What does bitterness do? It creates a barrier between you and the other person. But even more importantly, that bitterness creates a barrier between you and every other person in your life. And that includes God.

As long as you hold bitterness in your heart, you cannot have a relationship with God. It puts a wall between you and God. You may not realize it because that barrier may have been there for many, many years and you are so used to it that you think that everything is normal. You may even believe that you have a good relationship with God. But believe me, as long as you have bitterness in your heart, there is a barrier between you and God.

Forgiveness Enables Love

Unforgiveness inhibits the ability to love. The reason is that we refuse to forgive because we still have bitterness in our heart toward that person. It is that bitterness that inhibits our ability to love that person.

If we refuse to forgive someone for something that they did to us, we cannot have any love for that person. Without forgiveness, we cannot love. With love we are compelled to forgive.

God is trying to tell us that the reason that forgiveness is so important is that it is forgiveness that gives us the ability to love. I am talking about agape love because that is the type of love we are to have for each other. We simply cannot hold a grudge against someone and have agape love toward them. To learn more about what Agape Love is, go to my article on it.

Without the ability to love, we cannot receive God’s love because we will not be able to recognize it. We cannot receive that which we cannot recognize. And if we cannot receive God’s love, we cannot receive His great gift of salvation. So where does that leave us? It leaves us without salvation and doomed to live for eternity outside the presence of God.

How Often Must We Forgive?

“What if he keeps on doing bad things to me?” Well, the first thing is that if you can get out of that environment, do it as quickly as you can. If you are in danger, you must get out of that danger.

However, what if we are not in danger and someone is just doing bad things to us. What if he keeps asking for our forgiveness and yet keeps repeating his actions? How many times must I forgive him?

When Peter asked Jesus this question, Jesus said Matthew 18:22 (NKJV): “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” The phrase “seventy times seven” is an interesting phrase in the ancient Hebrew culture. It does not mean simply 490 times but rather indefinitely. In other words, Jesus is saying that you forgive him as many times as he asks to be forgiven.

Think about it. Isn’t that what you want God to do with you. Do you want Him to start counting how many times you asked to be forgiven and when you reach a magic number, say “you have exhausted all your forgiveness, I cannot forgive you any more”? If this is not what you want God to do, God is saying that you must not do it either.

What If They Do Not Repent And Ask For Forgiveness?

What if someone remains happy that he was able to harm you? What if there is no repentance in his heart? What do we do then?

The first thing that we must remember is what forgiveness does for us. Forgiveness may never change the other person, but it always changes us. Remember, unforgiveness keeps us from loving and receiving love. This keeps us from receiving God’s great love and His great gift of salvation.

So, when we ask this question, we are not asking how this is going to create a friendship between us and the other person. Instead, we are asking what does God want us to do?

Unless someone asks for forgiveness, forgiving them will have no effect on them. Is this important? For them, no. However, giving that forgiveness, even without them asking for it, does something very important in you. It will bring you inner peace. And with inner peace, you will have a much happier life.

What Does Forgiveness Really Do?

It is true that if someone asks for forgiveness and you give it to them, you can change the relationship between you into something good. However, that is not what is truly important. What is really important is what happens in you.

By truly forgiving the person that has harmed you, you destroy that wall of bitterness that surrounds you. When that happens, a whole new world opens up to you. This is why you ask Jesus into your heart. When the whole new world opens up to you. Jesus is right there to guide you into your new life.

When you do this, you will be amazed at the peace that comes over you. You will be amazed at how different and wonderful everything is. This is what Jesus wants for you.

The kind of life that you live is up to you. You can continue to live a bitter, lonely life or you can let go of all the bitterness and allow Jesus to lead you into a wonderful peaceful life. Which will it be?

 S




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