Matthew 6:14-15 - "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
In my last post, I discussed the charge of forgiveness. Today, we will discuss the cycle of forgiveness. These words of Jesus seem a bit harsh, yet show the serious nature of his command. Forgiveness happens as a result of what has been done for you by the Father. Since you have been forgiven, so you have the responsibility to forgive.
The parable of the Unforgiving Servant gives the perfect illustration of how we often respond to God's grace. This story can be found in Matthew 18. The story begins with a king who asks his servant to pay back a debt, which was equal to about 10,000 bags of gold. When the servant declared that he did not have the money, the king ordered that his wife and children be sold in order to repay the debt. The servant begs for mercy and the king had pity on him and thus cancelled the debt in its entirety. As the servant leaves, he sees a fellow servant who owes him 100 silver coins. When he sees his colleague, he grabs him by the neck and threatens, "Give me back what you owe me!" The fellow servant falls on his knees and asks for more time, promising to pay it all back. Instead of showing mercy, the first servant refuses. Instead he goes off and has his colleague thrown in jail for not paying back the little money owed to him. When the other servants saw what happened, they told the king. The king called the servant in and told him he was wicked because he had not shown mercy after he had been given mercy. The servant was then handed over to be tortured until he could pay back his great debt.
Our tendency is to be like the wicked servant. We beg for God's mercy and forgiveness. Then, once we have it, we immediately forget about the great act of love which had been shown to us. Instead of being humbled by His mercy, we think of ourselves as superior. Then, when someone asks forgiveness from us, we, like the wicked servant, we cannot simply cancel the debt, but make them work and strive towards our forgiveness. This is not what Christ asks us to do. He asks us to simply cancel the debt. In essence, we are to make the offense disappear. We are to let it go and to never bring it up again, not to that person nor to anyone else. If we do not do that, we can expect severe consequences from God because we are not living out the forgiveness that He has given us and we are therefore not being genuine disciples of Christ.
The challenge today is to examine yourself. Who have you said to yourself that you have forgiven, but you know in your heart you haven't? Who are you keeping tethered to unforgiveness? Let go and by God's mercy give them the forgiveness they deserve. When we forgive others, we are truly able to enjoy God's forgiveness in our own lives.