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“If you forgive others for the wrongs they have done, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you.” — Matthew 6:14–15
When Jesus’ words don’t match what I was taught, growing up, I can easily miss their importance. I don’t want to be like the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, the most highly respected religious people of their day, who couldn’t see truth beyond their prejudices.
“After being saved, we can’t be unsaved.”
Is that true? A long-standing Christian belief says it is. We reinforce that claim with the apostle Paul’s words that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35).
I wonder if Jesus would say to us today, “That’s true as far as God’s commitment is concerned, but what about your commitment?”
In essence, the apostle Paul said, “If you keep on sinning, don’t expect to be in the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21). How do we reconcile that with the commonly held truism: “We’re saved by grace, not works”?
Maybe our behavior matters more than we might think.
After being forgiven by God, is it possible to be unforgiven?
Perhaps the disciples’ struggle with that fact was what led Jesus to illustrate the truth with an interesting story. A man who had been forgiven a million-dollar debt refused to forgive someone else of a hundred-dollar debt (Matthew 18:23–35).
Having been forgiven, he became unforgiven.
Gifts sometimes come with conditions.
Little Johnny was never satisfied, complaining all the time. After a barrage of crying about all that didn’t suit him, his mother had heard enough. “If you don’t quit complaining,” you’re not going to play baseball this year.”
“Too late,” Johnny said. “I’m already signed up.”
“Well I can un-sign you,” Mom said.
“Oh,” Johnny said, suddenly quiet. He didn’t complain for the rest of the day.
Having received God’s forgiveness, I need to be like Johnny and understand the conditions.
Forgiveness is God’s gift for us to give.
The first-century Jewish culture called for an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. What a shock it must have been when Jesus overrode that belief by saying we should turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38–39). The disciples must have been thinking they might do that once, but twice? Hardly. So Jesus said if someone was guilty of an offense seven times in a day, we should forgive seven times (Luke 17:4).
Apparently, those words weren’t convincing. Years later, Peter asked if seven times was enough, and Jesus said, “Seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21–22).
When we forgive, we become more like God, experiencing his mercy and grace.
In the model prayer, Jesus gave this pattern for what our attitude should be: “Father, forgive our wrongs as we forgive the wrongs of others” (Matthew 6:12).
Forgiveness isn’t approving wrongdoing. It’s letting go of our bitterness and resentment, leaving the punishment up to God so we can love those who have harmed us, wishing they could receive God’s mercy, just as we have.
If your enemy is hungry, prepare a feast for him. If he is thirsty, give him your best wine. Your generosity will amaze him—as much a shock as coals of fire being poured upon his head—and God will reward you. — Romans 12:20