The Lord’s Prayer is repeated regularly around the world in Christian churches of every denomination. Still, this last word of importance is often overlooked. Forgiveness is mentioned in the prayer itself, but Jesus knew it needed added attention. Jesus came into the world not only to reconcile us to God but with one another. He prayed in John 17 that we would all be one. True unity cannot take place without forgiveness.
“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.”
John later wrote this sobering truth in 1 John 4:20-21
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
Paul also wrote in Ephesians 4:32, And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
The author of Romans penned these words. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
God extended such mercy and forgiveness to us first. He showed us the way of the Kingdom. In Isaiah 55:7 He showed us the way of forgiveness.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
Forsake means to completely turn away from – severe any connection.
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
To return to the LORD means to repent with sincerity and run back to Jesus to follow Him with your whole heart.
And He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
God will forgive beyond what we can conceive.
I, for one, can attest to the fact, that if you have been forgiven much, you are much more likely to extend mercy and forgive others. You realize how easy it is to fall into sin. You also know and how terrible you feel when you when faced with your sin and see the harm it has caused others. If God can forgive us, how can we withhold forgiveness?
Stephen extended forgiveness to those who were stoning him to death. They stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:59-60
Here is another aspect to consider. In Mark 11:25 we find this verse, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
Our forgiveness of others is a necessary qualification if we are to receive continued mercy from God. If our prayers are to be acceptable to God, we must “lift up holy hands, without wrath.” 1 Timothy 2:8 The answers to our prayers can be hindered by unforgiveness in our hearts.
Matthew 18 lays the guidelines for forgiveness between us and other believers. While we don’t have time to cover it today, read it over and make note of the steps involved. They are set in God’s order and must be followed in God’s order to be effective. Too many Christians and churches do not follow these godly steps and wonder why there is so much strife in their lives.
Forgiveness sets US free even if the other person never repents or shows remorse.
Unforgiveness is a prison of its own making. The fruits of the Spirit, nor the power of God are found in a heart full of unforgiveness. Let us forgive one another even as Christ has forgiven us. It is the Kingdom way. It is God’s way. We are His hands and feet in this world and the world is watching. Do we look like the world, or are we showing them God’s love and truth? They will know we are Christians by our love, not by our unforgiveness.
Let’s take some time and ask Holy Spirit to search our hearts and see if there be any unforgiveness in us and enable us by His grace to repent and forgive.