Surely not! He is so loving, kind and forgiving. Surely if I can’t forgive someone God, who is love, will still forgive me.
Well … actually, no! Listen to what he says: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15).
He says this immediately after teaching his disciples the Lord’s Prayer which, in the version we say in every service, states: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
In other words, if I say the Lord’s Prayer, whilst still not having forgiven someone or done all I reasonably can to be reconciled with them, those words are irrelevant. I won’t be forgiven.
It follows that when I say the confession I’m not forgiven, whatever the Minister says. This is serious.
So if I go to God with unforgiveness in my heart and ask him to forgive me, he will say: Go and forgive the person you haven’t forgiven. Then, but only then, I will forgive you.”
What does forgiving someone mean?
It doesn’t mean:
- We suddenly approve of what they (genuinely) said or did to upset us. We might still strongly disapprove.
- We necessarily have to like the person or become close friends.
It means that:
- We pray regularly for God’s blessing on them. Jesus said “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6: 28). That will help us to deal with temptations to be resentful or even hateful.
- We let the other person know we are willing to forgive and be reconciled. Of course, they have to be willing too, otherwise reconciliation is impossible. However, even then, we must maintain a forgiving attitude and readiness to be reconciled.
- We apologise if there is something to apologise for.
- We act for their benefit, if an opportunity arises.
- At the very least we seek to draw a line, establish a truce, and seek to relate positively to one another.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction