A Forgiving Spirit
At a quick glance, this request may sound like a quid pro quo—that our forgiveness of others somehow earns us the right to be forgiven. If we allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves, however, we will recognize that the opposite is true. God forgives only the penitent—those who feel godly sorrow and repent of their sins. And what is one of the chief evidences of being penitent? A forgiving spirit! In other words, when we forgive one another, we don’t earn forgiveness; we show that we have already been transformed by God’s forgiving grace.
Jesus taught that it is inconceivable that we who have been forgiven so much should refuse to forgive the debts of others against us (Matthew 18:21-35). Yet we’re still tempted to hold grudges, stay angry, to “forgive but not to forget.” D.L. Moody is said to have compared that idea to somebody who buries the hatchet but leaves the handle sticking out.
An unforgiving spirit is perhaps the greatest killer of genuine spiritual life. We shouldn’t claim to be seeking God if we actively harbor enmity in our hearts against our brothers and sisters. It will extinguish the flame of Christian joy and make it nearly impossible to benefit from the Bible’s teaching. It is no surprise, then, that Jesus essentially says, What I’m saying about a forgiving spirit is a fundamental element of believing prayer. Check your life for it.
Are you bearing a grudge or replaying someone’s wronging of you in your mind? Is there someone you have failed to forgive? Reflect on the forgiveness you have received, and ask God to teach and enable you to forgive—for in your forgiveness of the sins of others against you, you reveal that you understand His grace and have been truly forgiven by Him.
How can Your pardon reach and bless
The unforgiving heart
That broods on wrongs and will not let
Old bitterness depart?
In blazing light Your cross reveals
The truth we dimly knew,
How small the debts men owe to us,
How great our debt to You.
Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
And bid resentment cease;
Then, reconciled to God and man,
Our lives will spread Your peace.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.7 24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.8 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servant9 fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,10 and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,11 until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
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