Postscript On Forgiveness
“‘If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions’” (Matthew 6:14–15).
Believers should forgive others because they have received forgiveness from God themselves (cf. Eph. 1:17). We can’t claim to know God’s parental forgiveness—that which keeps our fellowship with the Lord rich and open—apart from forgiving others in heart and word.
Paul had this in mind when he wrote, “I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience” (1 Tim. 1:16). An unforgiving spirit not only is inconsistent for one who has been totally forgiven by God, but also brings the chastening of God rather than His mercy.
Jesus states the truth of verse 14 in a negative way when He says, “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” The sin of an unforgiving heart and a bitter spirit (Heb. 12:15) forfeits blessing and invites judgment.
We must seek to manifest the forgiving spirit of Joseph (Gen. 50:19–21) and of Stephen (Acts 7:60) as often as needed (Luke 17:3–4). To receive pardon from the perfectly holy God and then refuse to pardon others when we are sinful people is the epitome of abuse of mercy. “Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). So be sure you are practicing forgiveness of others.
What breaks down in your relationship with God when you withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged or mistreated you? How does it choke out your openness and freedom in the Lord’s presence?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610