"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . . For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matt. 6:12, 14-15).
An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms.
It's possible to confess your sins and still not know the joy of forgiveness. How? Failure to forgive others! Christian educator J. Oswald Sanders observed that Jesus measures us by the yardstick we use on others. He didn't say, "Forgive us because we forgive others," but "Forgive us even as we have forgiven others."
An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms because we are the forgiven ones! Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." God forgave us an immeasurable debt, saving us from the horrors of eternal hell. That should be motivation enough to forgive any offense against us, yet some Christians still hold grudges.
Here are three practical steps to dealing with the sin of unforgiveness. First, confess it and ask the Lord to help you mend the relationship in question. Second, go to the person, ask for forgiveness, and seek reconciliation. You might discover that he or she wasn't even aware of the offense. Third, give the person something you highly value. This is a very practical approach based on our Lord's teaching that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21). Whenever I've given a book or other gift to someone who has wronged me, I've felt a great sense of liberty in my spirit. In addition, my joy is compounded because I feel the joy of giving as well as the joy of forgiving.
Don't ever let a grudge stand between you and another person. It will rob you of the full joy of God's forgiveness.
Suggestions for Prayer
Before praying, examine your heart. If you harbor bitterness toward another person, follow the procedure given above. Then pray, thanking the Lord for the joy of reconciliation.
For Further Study
Read the parable of the servant in Matthew 18:21-35.
- What question prompted the parable?
- How did the king respond to his servant's pleading?
- What did the servant do later on? Why was that wrong?
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.