Forgiving Others

There is a passage in the Bible where Jesus says,

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  -Matt. 6:14-15

Note that forgiveness is conditional.  God will only forgive on the condition we forgive others.  These words were spoken to Jesus' disciples.  They were believers and followers in Jesus Christ.  Jesus taught the disciples many things in His three and a half years of ministry on this earth.  After the resurrection of Jesus, He told his disciples,

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen" -Matt. 28:18-20

Jesus wants us to observe all that He taught His disciples.  Not just some, but ALL THINGS that He has commanded them, and forgiveness is part of that command.

Jesus is talking with saved disciples, genuine followers, who have God as their Father.  This is apparent because Jesus tells them in verses 14 and 15, "your Father." 

This may shock some people, and some might even get offended by this, but the truth is truth whether we believe it or not.  There are only two spiritual fathers.   Either one has the devil for his father or God as his Father.  Jesus lets us know that the unsaved have the devil as their spiritual father.  These little extra tid bits may be looked up in your Bible (John 8:42-44 and 1 John 3:10), because I don't want you to just take my word for it, but I want you to read the truth for yourself.

So the subject of  forgiving others is specifically given to the disciples of Jesus (and remember Jesus told them, "... teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you...") who have God as their heavenly Father.

Matthew 6:14-15 (as well as other passages in Luke chapters 11 and 17, etc.) is devastating to the Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) teachers.  It destroys the false teaching that when one gets saved all his future sins are forgiven.  If all of one's future sins are forgiven automatically, then there is no need to have to forgive others who sin against us to get our sins forgiven, as Jesus plainly taught!  A person, at the point of salvation, is cleansed from all his sins up to that moment (Col. 2:13; 2 Peter 1:9; 1 John 1:7-9).  If a Christian happens to give into temptation and sin, he has an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). 

So we see that saved people who do not forgive others who sin against them will NOT be forgiven by their heavenly Father.

The most exhaustive teaching by Jesus on the matter of forgiveness can be found in Matthew 18:21-35.  It would be good to take the Bible out and read it for yourself and note some observations and facts of life:

  • Jesus doesn't suggest that there will be some who would not be sinned against.  Somebody, somewhere, sometime, will eventually get stabbed in the back by someone.  You will be hurt, whether it be by family, friends, co-workers, spouse, and enemies.  As long as we are breathing and walking, we are bound to be sinned against.
  • At the point of our salvation, our mountainous sin debt that was forgiven is likened to ten thousand talents.  On the other hand, when someone sins against us, it is likened unto only a hundred denarii.  This is like one million of our debt and one thousand of the other who sins against us.  The point is, we have sinned more severely over the years against God than people who have sinned against us!  We should be more ready to forgive because we have been forgiven (Colossians 3:12-13; Ephesians 4:31-32, etc.).
  • The man who was forgiven of the ten thousand talents, who could not forgive the man who only owed him a mere hundred denarii, was labeled a wicked servant!  (See where they go, Matt. 25:30)
  • We will be treated in the same manner we treat others unless we can forgive our brother from the heart, vs. 35.

So what was the outcome of all of this?  What happened was, the servant who was forgiven of the ten thousand talents had to pay back his cancelled debt!  In other words, his past sins at the point of his salvation was charged back to him.  He was no longer forgiven.  God took the forgiveness back!

Jesus is showing us the importance of a 'forgiving' spirit. The servant is forgiven a debt of immense proportions, he could NEVER repay on his own. Which is without doubt an illustration of our sin and Christ's forgiveness. But he then fails to forgive his fellow servant a 'small' debt in comparison, and is 'delivered to the torturers until he should pay all that is due from him'. Ending with this warning: "So My heavenly Father also will do to you IF each of you, FROM HIS HEART, Does not forgive his brother his trespasses." 

How Do I Forgive?

Forgiving simply means let go or put away.  As hard as it may sound, we need to let go of feelings of resentment, grudges, and the wanting to get revenge on the person who has hurt us.   We should not harbor bitterness or seek revenge to those who have sinned against us.  Vengeance (Rom. 12:19) is God's territory and He will repay.  Just remember that those we forgive doesn't mean they are getting away with their offense.

The Temptation Not To Forgive

Your spiritual enemy is out to destroy you.  The devil is going to remind you of past hurts.  He did it with David (2 Sam. 16:5-14; 19:18-23 cf. 1 Kings 2:8,9).

It is easy to fall into the temptation of not forgiving.   Unforgiveness and bitterness will only eat you up.  Let's put it this way, "It's like you drinking poison hoping the other person dies." 

I can speak from experience about being able to forgive those tough sins that were made against me.  I will share something from my own life to give you an example of what God can do.

When I was a young one, I was continuously molested by a parish priest and my Uncle.   Time passed and I became a young adult living on my own.  I came to know Jesus as my Savior in my early 20's and it was sometime after I was saved, about a year, that my past would begin to haunt me again.  It put me back into a depressed state that I had before I came to Christ.   This went on for a few months.  One night, in my living room alone, I was reading my Bible.  I came to the part Jesus talked about, how we must forgive others or we won't be forgiven.  I didn't want that to happen.  I struggled very hard that night with those verses.  I tossed and turned and finally went to sleep.  The next morning I got ready for work, but the thoughts about my past did not go away, neither did the verses I read the night before.  I knew what I had to do, but just wasn't sure how to do it.  As I was walking to work I said this short prayer, "Lord, I know what I read last night and you know I don't feel like forgiving these people, but you said I must and I know that's what I have to do.  So I forgive them by faith, please supply the emotions."  I can't begin to tell you about the weight that came off my shoulders.  It was the difference between night and day!  As I got closer to work, I found myself humming a song of praise.  I noticed I was no longer depressed! 

Forgiving is possible, it just takes obedience and God will do the rest.  He will give us peace and assurance as we obey Him.  

But I also want to say that the enemy will be aggressive and plant the thoughts back in, but I would immediately respond, "Yes, but they are forgiven," and I would not dwell on it.  This only happened a few times and I have not been bothered since.

The enemy is capable of giving us thoughts everyday.  His job is to tempt us and he's been doing it since the time of Adam and Eve.   If the devil is giving you destructive thoughts, compare them with the word of God.  If your thoughts, imaginations, and suggestions do not come under the category of simple obedience to God's word, then they are from the tempter himself.  The best thing to do is not to entertain those thoughts.  God's word tells us in James 4:7, "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."  I realize now this is exactly what I was doing when it came to the enemy reminding me of my past after I had forgiven. 

Don't let the devil initiate something in your heart and mind that will eventually destroy you spiritually.  Resist him!  One of the ways you can resist him is to pray for the person who has hurt you (Luke 6:27-28; Acts 7:60).

Do you find it hard to pray for those who sinned against you?  Just remember the story Jesus told about the servant who had the ten thousand talent debt.  He cancelled your ten thousand talent at your salvation and that offense against you is only worth a hundred denarii!

You Can't Forgive?

If you are still at the point where you cannot forgive someone, it only shows that you are deceived by the devil.  You are able to forgive and you must if you want to be forgiven.  Don't go by your feelings.  I realized I couldn't go by my feelings.  If I depended on my feelings at the time, I would still be walking in unforgiveness.  Change is not going to happen until we make the first step.

Okay, Does That Mean I Must Trust The Person After I Forgive?

Do you think I would still trust my Uncle and the parish priest?  No way!  It's possible to forgive and yet not trust that person to the point where they can hurt you again.  

One of the facts we must face is that in some of our relationships there will not be complete reconciliation.  Some will continue to hurt us as often as they can.  There is an example of this in the Bible where it concerns David and Saul.  David didn't trust Saul's invitation to return to Jerusalem, even though it appeared Saul had repented (1 Sam. 26:21-27:1).

It is also safe to assume that Paul forgave the metalworker, Alexander, who did him a great deal of harm, but we find Paul warning Timothy of this man (2 Tim. 4:14,15).  It appears that Paul didn't think Alexander was going to change and thus didn't trust him.

So forgiving someone doesn't necessarily mean you have to trust them once they are forgiven

Realize This Saint of God! 

Unforgiveness will be a hindrance to your prayer life.  Failure to forgive is  failure to obey Jesus and can lead to spiritual ruin.  God's word plainly states that our heavenly Father will not forgive us if we do not forgive others.  That is what Jesus taught His disciples, and in turn told them to teach us to observe all He has commanded!   Our heavenly Father knows what it best for us. 

"And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal
salvation unto all them that obey him."
-Heb. 5:9