14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
This is a painful passage to read. When someone revealed it to me for the first time I rejected it and tried to reason with it and make it say something else. You can do what I did and read it over and again but Jesus is quite clear: our forgiveness from God depends upon our forgiveness of others. Unforgiveness blocks our relationship with God and with others. In Luke 17, Jesus explains the process a little more in how we are to treat others who have wronged us:
3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
Notice how the apostles asked for Jesus to increase their faith when He told them how to deal with those who sin against us? It is interesting to note that we need more faith in order to forgive others. That faith comes from our relationship with God. We must repent of our own sins as well in order to increase in faith and thus be able to forgive and to receive forgiveness from God, we must forgive others. Forgiveness is a blessing that God bestows upon us. If you could picture yourself as a pipe and Jesus pours out His forgiveness, we must let that pipe flow in order to receive more blessing and forgiveness. If we hold onto it, the pipe gets stopped up and cannot be filled any more. This is what we read about in 1 John 1:
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
We cannot say we are followers of Christ and walk in the light if we refuse to forgive others. It is unholy and we become sinners by holding onto that bitterness inside. We must also recognize our own sinfulness in each situation where forgiveness is necessary. It isn’t to say that it is easy to forgive (which is why the apostles asked for more faith), but it is something we must always be striving towards. We must ask God to help us forgive others when we don’t feel we have the capacity to do so. We must ask Him forgiveness for the offense of not forgiving others. It amazes me how many people in the world and even more so the people of the church neglect or refuse to forgive others. It has been said that holding onto forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. They might not even know they offended you! This is why Jesus says we must tell others when they have offended us.
Unforgiveness blocks our relationship with God and others. Against whom are you maintaining unforgiveness? Who must you forgive? Do you need to ask God to give you the capacity to do so? If you truly are seeking the way of the Lord, remember what is written in Ephesians 4:
30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.