For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:14-15, ESV
Living in this world without offending others — intentionally or unintentionally is difficult. Living with others in the church is often as difficult. Sometimes, you will need to make those matters right, seeking forgiveness from those you have offended. It is difficult to stand before someone and say, “I was wrong; I sinned against you. Please forgive me.” Yet, that is what must be done. In so far as one knows his own heart, he should never live within the confines of the Christian community with known offenses aimed at others. Yet, another side to this matter is as important: if someone seeks forgiveness from you, you are duty-bound to grant it. After all, when you seek forgiveness from your heavenly Father, he is quick to give it, for he is just and righteous to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). Therefore, like your heavenly Father, you must grant forgiveness to the one who asks you for it. It is not optional. Yet, some would seek to justify their inability or unwillingness to do so. They will make excuses, shift the matter to some other issue, or make things worse by blaming the one who has been convicted and seeks to make it right.
The Lord Jesus Christ issues a warning in Matthew 6 within the context of what we know as The Lord’s Prayer. One of the petitions is “forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts of others ” (6:12). From that petition, the Savior says, “If you forgive others, you will be forgiven. If not, you will not be forgiven your debts.” Indeed, we owe a great debt to a holy God. We offend him daily in thought, word, and deed. Suffice it to say, the numerous ways we offend God are legion. Yet, each time we come to our Father in heaven, plead his mercy and grace, seeking forgiveness, he gives it. He buries it in the deepest ocean and separates it as far as the East is from the West. He does not remember it anymore. The blood of his beloved Son covers it. Why, my friend, would you withhold forgiveness from your brother or sister? You have been forgiven much! Therefore, you must do likewise for those who ask it of you. To refuse that act of kindness is to demonstrate that you are a seriously sick Christian who needs to repent and resolve that matter with the help of the Spirit, or you are not a Christian at all. Matthew Henry puts it this way:
But if you forgive not those that have injured you, that is a bad sign you have not the other requisite conditions [being forgiven by God], but are altogether unqualified for pardon; and therefore your Father will not forgive you. And if other graces be sincere, and yet you be defective greatly in forgiving, you cannot expect the comfort of your pardon. Those that would find mercy with God must show mercy to their brethren. (Matthew Henry Commentary, 1230)
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