"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.”
Forgiveness is vital to one’s eternal salvation. Without being forgiven and forgiving others, we cannot be true Christians and enter heaven. As our Lord spoke in Matthew 6:15 with a slight paraphrase, “if we do not forgive others, Father God will not forgive us.” Ministers can give message after message trying to coddle people into forgiving those who they feel or know did them wrong, but in all honesty, it is not a matter to be gentle with. It is a matter of eternal life and death.
Common sayings such as, unforgivenesss is like drinking a cup of poison, hoping it hurts the other person, have great value. And bitterness does consume a person internally. But the fact of the matter is that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others.
Here are some other strong verses on the subject.
Colossians 3:12-13 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
Mark 11:25-26 "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Matthew 18:32-35 “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
I believe unforgiveness is a form of pride and self-righteousness. As in, “I should be forgiven but the other one should be held accountable” and this is a grave mistake. To the Lord, as shown in Matthew 18, He forgives each of us a multitude of sins and yet if we cannot forgive someone else of even an inkling of how much we have been forgiven, then our forgiveness is revoked. If we refuse to forgive, then the Lord will still hold us accountable. I personally believe it comes down to this: If I receive mercy, then I must give mercy. But if I demand justice against another who did me wrong, then I must receive justice for my wrongs also.
So I plead to anyone still holding on to another’s offense to: let it go. And from the heart. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. My Bible tells me that, the Lord loved me even when sin was my master and died for me when I was living in complete rebellion to Him. So, whether another person is sorry for how they did me wrong or not, it does not matter. Love forgives.
Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.
1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
Human love is a very selfish love. We love someone else as long as they are lovable. But God’s kind of love is unselfish love. It loves even when the other one does not love back or is even hateful. This is agape love. This is the kind of love we are recipients of. And as such, we are to love with the same kind of love. It is not always a feeling as much as it is a choice. We choose agape love, even if our carnal nature would choose the opposite. This is being Christlike. Remember when Jesus was on the cross and cried out, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Some might have had an idea of what they were doing with their hearts full of hatred, but if they would have truly known the mistake and consequences of their actions, it might have all been very different. And I believe Jesus was praying for all of us, not just those there that day. And Jesus was also showing us the way. He could have prayed it quietly within Himself. But by the manner He chose to pray it, we can all follow His lead.
Remember the young rich man who came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to be saved? It is found in Mark 10:17-27. And the Lord told him about following the commandments and he said that he had been doing it all right. And then the Lord told him: “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me." And the young rich man went away sad. Even if this young man’s problem was riches and not unforgiveness, the principle is the same. Whatever we have in our heart that occupies space from what should belong to the Lord, which holding a grudge and having unforgiveness does, we must not let that happen. We must give our all to the Lord 100%. Ninety nine percent is still not enough. This includes forgiving others. And we may all struggle in doing it sometimes. But if our heart is one hundred percent to the Lord, He will help us overcome, even if we struggle some. As long as we keep getting back up when we fail, and keep trying, we will make it.
In closing, I believe if a person insists on holding the grudge of unforgiveness, they should plan on spending eternity in hell. They can claim to be a Christian all day long, but a true Christian forgives, even as they have been forgiven. And how can we forgive as we have been forgiven? By choice and the grace of God. Even if it is a battle for a while with the carnal nature. After a while, the habit of choosing love and forgiveness will become stronger and natural. This is biblical forgiveness.
Important note: Forgiving does not mean to remain in abuse. We must forgive the abuser but the Bible does not say to continue letting someone abuse us.
Listed below are some articles on our parent website that deal with love and forgiveness.
Forgiveness: Why does Jesus Command Us To Forgive?
Job, His Three Friends And Forgiveness
Unforgiveness Is Expensive
The Love of God (to better understand agape love)
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