“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15 NASB).
Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 NIV). Because, in Christ, we have been forgiven everything, God asks us to extend that same measure of forgiveness to others.
Elsewhere Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7 NASB). The degree to which I receive mercy is correlated to the mercy I show others. He communicated a similar message about judging: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB). In other words, I will be judged in the same way I judge others.
Jesus understood that forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a choice. And it is a choice we are capable of making now, wherever we are. If we desire to receive mercy and forgiveness, then, according to Jesus, we must choose to show mercy and forgiveness to others. We are to forgive those who have wronged us; others who don’t agree with us or act like us; or others who have hurt us.
This is where Jesus’ message challenges us in very practical ways, just as it did His original audience. He understood that people have the propensity to treat others horribly, without mercy or forgiveness. Yet, it is because we have peace with God, that we should work to have peace with others. The Bible tells us that the love of Christ has been shed abroad in our hearts. We have an ample supply of love and forgiveness to share with those around us.
This is a profound thought with incredible implications. Think how different our world would look if the followers of Jesus lived by the principle that since we have received unending mercy and forgiveness, we must also show mercy and forgiveness to others. It would transform our world, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our families.
Father, let us share the forgiveness you have given us with others. Amen.