Day 11 – Relationship – Forgive Others

JESUS TEACHES US TO PRAY

Mt. 6:12 … as we also have forgiven our debtors

The Heart - Relationship

Jesus is not content to simply teach us to pray for God’s forgiveness.  After Jesus instructs us to pray for the forgiveness of our sins He adds this:  “…as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  To make sure we understand, Jesus clarifies His point in the following few verses:

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

It sounds like our forgiveness is conditional.  If we don’t forgive we won’t be forgiven.  That raises a question:  Does our salvation depend on our willingness/ability to forgive?

To answer this question, let’s examine Jesus’ main point in these verses.  We know from the previous verses that Jesus is not teaching us about salvation here.  He’s teaching us how to pray.  By teaching us to forgive the people in our lives who sin against us, Jesus teaches us to love others just like God loves us.  In other words, we have a responsibility, as followers of Jesus, to love people by sacrificially giving our very best regardless of their response – we love even if they hurt us, reject us, or hate us.  Why?  Because that’s how God loves us.

Our sin hurts God.  His heart is grieved by our constant and intentional disobedience.  Even so, God loves us so much that, despite our evil behavior towards Him, He took loving action on our behalf.  He sent Jesus – His one and only Son – to die on a cross in our place.  Jesus suffered the wrath of God against sin even though His relationship with His Father is perfect. Jesus didn’t deserve to die.  He never sinned.  Jesus died not for His sin, but for ours.  God’s love is showered upon us not because we deserve it, but because God is love.  He sacrifices Himself out of love for you and me – the people who constantly do wrong against Him.

The Lord’s love does not depend on the loveliness of the person He loves.  The world teaches us to love people based on their physical or inner beauty or because they may be able to do something for us.  But God’s love is different.  His love comes from His essential nature not from the loveliness of the one loved.  It is in God’s character to love:

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

As followers of Jesus, then, our love for people is motivated by God’s love for them.  Our love for others is not to be based on their loveliness or potential benefit to us. Our love of others is not based on how they treat us.  We are called to love others exactly like God has loved us.  If He can forgive our sin and love us despite the pain we’ve caused Him, then, in His strength, we can love others despite the pain they’ve caused us.

Loving people sacrificially regardless of how they treat us should revolutionize the world.  The unsaved people of this world should be absolutely stunned by the selfless and sacrificial love shown to them by those who follow Jesus.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who claim to follow Jesus but disregard His teaching about forgiving others.  They hate their enemies.  They hold grudges.  Some even try to retaliate and actively hurt those who have hurt them.  This is not the example set by the life and teaching of Jesus.

1 John 4:15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. … 1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

With all this considered, then, let’s think again about what Jesus says:

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

The issue is not that our salvation depends on our own ability to forgive others.  If our salvation depends on our ability to forgive, God’s sacrifice on the cross is not enough to save us.  We need the cross of Christ plus we need our own ability to forgive.  This is not what scripture teaches.

Scripture teaches that the cross of Christ is enough.  Through Jesus reconciliation and relationship with God is restored.  As Paul told the Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

It’s clear that our salvation is in Christ alone.  Salvation does not depend on our own ability to forgive (that would be salvation by works).  But, all who truly know Jesus Christ and do what He says will adopt His willingness to extend forgiveness to everyone.  In Christ, we forgive and love even our enemies.  This is the Lord’s call on all who follow Jesus.

The question is:  “Are you willing to forgive others?”  If your answer is, “No,” you demonstrate that you do not understand the love of God.  You do not understand forgiveness.  You don’t know God.  If your answer is, “Yes, I am willing to forgive others,” then you demonstrate the love of God in your life.  No matter how hard it is or how imperfectly we forgive, God is blessed by our willingness to obey Him by forgiving others.

 

REVIEW & EXERCISE

Today’s verses confront us at a very deep level.  All of us have been hurt by someone.  Some of us have been extraordinarily devastated by the actions of other people.  God’s command is for us to forgive.  If we ask God to forgive us, we must forgive those who have hurt us.

Go to God in prayer right now and consider the attitudes of your heart.  Are there people in your life that you have not forgiven?  Are you holding a grudge?  Do you want to “settle the score” with someone?  Let the Lord show you who you need to forgive.  Then ask Him to lead you in what you need to do to actually forgive them.  He will set you free as you follow.

Meditate for a few moments on these verses.  What is the Lord saying to you?

Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

James 2:13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

1 John 3:10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.