Forgiven and Forgiving
A forgiven person should be a forgiving person—and, since forgiveness does not come naturally to us, we need to hear this again and again.
In other words, we forgive because God, through Jesus, forgives us. The Bible makes it perfectly clear that forgiveness doesn’t spring from any human merit and isn’t the result of our own endeavors to be gracious and forgiving towards others; rather it comes from the grace of God.
One of the chief evidences that someone has truly repented of their sins, therefore, is a forgiving spirit. Conversely, if we continually harbor enmity, grudges, and bitterness in our hearts, we not only harm our own lives and jeopardize our relationships, but frankly we also call into question whether we’ve ever truly discovered the nature of God’s forgiveness at all.
It’s impossible to extend genuine forgiveness unless we’ve experienced it ourselves, and impossible not to do so if we have. It will only flow from our hearts once we have been changed by God’s grace and have considered the enormity of our offense against Him. When such a transformation takes place, the sin of others against us will carry less weight as God enables us to forgive as we’ve been forgiven.
This is the principle behind Jesus’ parable of the servant in Matthew 18, who, having been forgiven a debt that was the first-century equivalent of $8 billion, then refused to forgive a debt of $20,000. Jesus wants us to see the unreasonableness of the servant who had been forgiven an enormous debt in refusing to forgive the debt that was owed to him. Viewed on its own, that debt was substantial; set against the amount he himself had been forgiven, it was tiny. Likewise, it is inconceivable that we, who have been forgiven such a vast debt of offense against God, should ever fail to forgive others.
If we have experienced God’s mercy, then we must certainly not neglect the exercise of forgiveness. In forgiving others, we enjoy the fullness of God’s pardon. Give up the records of sins that you’re tempted to hold on to. When this is hard because the wrong you’re being called to forgive was serious, look at the debt for which God has forgiven you, and look at what He gave up to do so—and that will enable you to extend mercy in your turn. Surely, if God has forgiven you, He will pour out His grace and mercy to help you walk in harmony with others.
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received3 it, and it will be yours. 25And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”4
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