Matthew 6:14-15 “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.”
For most thoughtful believers, these are some of the most devastating words in the whole Bible. There is that in us that does not like to forgive. However, God knows full well that failing to forgive eats away at our souls, and that is something He will not permit. We hang up not only on forgiving others, but also on forgiving ourselves at times. We have trouble accepting the truth that our offenses against God are far greater than anything anyone could do to us, and at the same time we can’t wrap our minds around the truth that the cross of Christ was sufficient payment for every one of our sins, and God’s forgiveness is both real and complete for anyone who comes to Him in Christ. There are many layers to what God told Paul one time when he was asking for physical healing: “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) That not only means that God will support us regardless of our physical circumstances (which is why it was spoken to Paul) it also means that His forgiveness is very real, and not dependent on acts of penance and the like. When we refuse to forgive others, we are ignoring the truth of God’s grace and essentially spitting in His face. Grace is received through humility!
I have tended to be fairly forgiving of others, but certain things I have done tend to haunt me. Big things I can recognize and release to God, but it’s the little things that tend to slip through the cracks. It is at times amazing the things that come to my mind that I did years ago! Each time that happens I’ve got to acknowledge that I did whatever it was, and then ask for God’s forgiveness and choose to receive it. It’s that last step that I tend to trip on! Forgiving things done to me is fortunately something that becomes easier with repetition, and by now it has become almost automatic. I rarely hold things over to the next day, and I have been greatly blessed by that. However, few of the people I encounter live like that, and getting them to see the truth about forgiveness can sometimes be a huge challenge. That’s especially awkward when they have something against me. I try to apply what Jesus taught about that, (Matthew 5:23-24) but apologies are not always accepted. Japanese culture has a long tradition of honoring revenge, and that is of course the opposite of forgiveness. On top of that, the average Japanese doesn’t even know the proper word for Biblical forgiveness, because it is a homophone (though written with a different character) of a word that simply means permission. As a result, if something can’t be allowed, it can’t be forgiven, in their thinking at least. Just explaining the two different characters (which I do every time I do marriage counseling) doesn’t necessarily get through to the point that people practice forgiveness with any consistency. I am not to give up, but continue both to explain and to demonstrate Biblical forgiveness, so that the truth may penetrate and set people free. (John 8:32)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You also for Your promise that when I forgive people, they really are forgiven. (John 20:23) Help me be an agent of Your forgiveness to all, so that the devil’s traps may be destroyed and people set free, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!