‘For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your trespasses’ (Matt 6:14-15). This is a sobering thought! Did you know that if you refuse to forgive others and harbour bitter feelings against them, then God will not forgive your sins? Shouldn’t that be enough to encourage us to forgive others? How terrible to live in a state where we are not forgiven because we haven’t forgiven! If we do not forgive others, why should we expect God to forgive us our wrong doings and grievances? We are all of us born sinners, and none of us are perfect. But whether others hurt us intentionally or unintentionally, our response ought to be that of complete and total forgiveness.
I’m sure that we would all want others to forgive us freely if we hurt or angered somebody in some way. Should we then not treat others as we would wish to be treated? ‘Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets’ (Matt 7:12).
When one nourishes bitter feelings against a person, they can gradually grow into feelings of hatred and harden the heart, until bitterness takes such a hold of that person that they are hard to reach and they become unhappy and unforgiving people, and not the kind of person that people wish to spend time with. When hearts grow hard through bitterness and hatred, they also become immune to the Holy Spirit, and such people have no joy of the Lord in their hearts, or experience of the love that He sheds on us and desires for us to spread to others. True love does not bear a record of wrongs (see 1 Cor 13). If Jesus can forgive those who mocked, scourged, shamed and crucified Him, how much more should we forgive those whose offences against us are minimal and so small compared to the grievances that Jesus endured from His persecutors?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44: ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ Here is our answer; this is how we are to respond! When we are cursed, hated, despitefully used and persecuted, our response should be that of forgiveness, which is love in action! It is hard, but through prayer, living close with our Saviour and desiring to do that which is right, forgiveness is achievable! In the past, when I have felt angry or bitter towards someone who had angered or hurt me, I prayed and asked the Lord to help me want to forgive, and He has!
When Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus how often they ought to forgive, Jesus replied, ‘I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, seventy times seven’ (Matt.18:22). In other words, no matter what, we should always forgive others who trespass against us. May God grant us the grace to forgive others readily and freely, just as He readily and freely has forgiven us.
Post written and submitted by one of our readers, Rebekah Driscoll
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