For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (ESV)Matthew 6:14-15
Having reached the conclusion of this portion focused on prayer, Jesus reemphasizes the need for us to prioritize forgiveness in our life. It is quite normal to read this and think that Jesus is here telling us that our salvation needs to be secured every day, but this is not the case. As his death and resurrection have already secured our eternal salvation once and for all, this call for forgiveness is about our relationships. Having been saved through the blood of Christ, we are now justified and clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The Father has brought us into a personal relationship with him and adopted us as sons and daughters. Jesus is reminding us of this great truth of forgiveness. The rich and abundant love of God was given to us through his forgiveness and having been given this forgiveness we are to go and do likewise. We are to be forgiving people that bring restoration and healing to every relationship.
As I read this passage and think about the call to live a life of forgiveness, I am struck by the thought that I treat forgiveness so lightly. I generally treat it as a one-way conversation where I am coming before God to ask forgiveness for the wrong that I have done. I treat it as though I am going to the doctor for treatment. I am called into the examination room, I lay out the problem and issues that are troubling my body, and the doctor gives me medicine or treatment which I then go on my way and tend to on my own. There is no relationship in this scenario. There is only self-centeredness and self-righteousness. I treat forgiveness as something that is owed to me. “Of course God will forgive me.” I treat it as a transaction instead of a relationship.
Jesus wants me to understand that forgiveness is about my relationship with God and others. Forgiveness takes work and effort. Forgiveness means that I will need to continue to seek humility in every relationship for how I treat others is a reflection of my understanding of God’s forgiveness toward me. I can’t be an unforgiving person (holding grudges and living in bitterness) when I truly understand the love of God and his forgiveness through Christ for me. If I am truly resting in the forgiveness of God, then my life will be marked by forgiveness and humility. I will be seeking forgiveness for my failings and dispensing forgiveness to others. All in an effort to bring healing and restoration to the relationships in my life.
An additional struggle I see in my heart is that I often find it difficult to forgive myself. I have repented and I have worked to make amends when required but there is still this nagging seed of doubt within my mind that keeps accusing me. This doubt permeates my mind and accuses me. This doubt tempts me to think that there is no forgiveness for my trespass. It leads me to withhold forgiveness from myself. It leads me to determine that I know better than God and will therefore withhold forgiveness from myself until I meet some criteria that I determine is proportional to my trespass. This is the lie that keeps me distant from God and causes me to isolate and hide instead of running to Jesus and holding on to him tightly.
Forgiveness is essential to my relationship with Jesus. I must be seeking forgiveness from Christ. I must be dispensing forgiveness to others. I must then rest in this forgiveness knowing that the rich mercy of God’s grace is promised to me. I can receive and give forgiveness through the grace of Jesus to anyone and everyone. Including myself. I can rest in humility and peace knowing that my Savior loves me completely and fully.