“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, “leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV
As strange as it may sound, the one thing I look forward to the most is something I have a hard time imagining. That statement probably doesn’t make a lot of sense now does it? Well, let me try to explain. What I look forward to the most is life without sin, or a sin nature. That would be a perfect description of our future life in Heaven, yet because I have never known a life without sin or my sin nature, I have absolutely no idea just what that would be like. What I do know, however, is what I have observed in this life about how sin can have a detrimental effect on our relationship with God and with others.
If you took the time to study all that Jesus taught on His time on earth, and categorized the subject matter, you would find that the subject of forgiveness was one of, if not the most discussed subject He shared with us. I’m sure also, that most of us have learned somewhere along the line is that anything given that much attention must be considered rather important. It is my thought that the subject of forgiveness is one of the most basic, fundamental building blocks of our lives as believers. That being the case, it then becomes one of the most important ones for us to not only understand, but practice as God has revealed to us.
“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.” Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV
I believe these two passages from the book of Matthew tell us just how important the spirit of forgiveness is to our Father, and why it should be to us as well. As believers, we have made the choice to ask God to forgive us of our sins, and He did as He promised He would, thus establishing our relationship with him for all of eternity. Yet although that relationship as God’s children is unbreakable, these passages also tell us that our relationship with Him can be severely affected by our unwillingness to forgive others as He has forgiven us.
The passage from Matthew 6 says unless we forgive those who’ve sinned against us, God will not forgive our sins. This doesn’t apply to our salvation but to maintaining our fellowship with God after we’re saved. As born again believers, the failure to forgive will not endanger our eternal salvation but it will cause us to be estranged from God during our lives here. If we look at it this way, can any of us really believe that being angry at someone else and choosing not to forgive is worth the price we will pay? I would have to say that from what I read, it appears that forgiveness is a command from God, not a suggestion.
Although hard for most of us to understand, especially given our sin nature, in God’s eyes it’s rather simple. When someone does something that hurts us, we suffer. But if we choose not to forgive them, we too then sin and according to God, will suffer even more. If we obey God and choose to forgive, then He will remove the anger from within us, give us peace, and restore our relationship with Him to good standing. I think what many of us fail to realize is that by choosing to be angry, and not forgiving someone who has wronged us, we end up being the one who suffers the most.
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27 NKJV
Making the choice to be angry, and not forgive, simply invites Satan to come in and work on us to try and justify our wrong attitude causing a downward spiral that becomes harder and harder to escape. Paul’s advice to us is to deal with our anger immediately by following God’s command to forgive, and not let Satan get a foothold in our life. James also tells us how and why it is important to do as God instructs us.
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:7-8 NKJV
When we made the decision to accept the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins, we were forgiven. Failure to forgive others will not endanger that salvation, but it will definitely negatively affect our relationship with God and deprive us of blessings in this life as well as the loss of rewards in the next one. Our sin nature creates in us the desire to punish someone when they do something which offends us. We naturally want to be angry, and find it easy to justify our feelings of payback and punishment as being well deserved. Yet punishment is under God’s purview, not ours. We are commanded to forgive others just as we have been forgiven.
God made the choice to forgive us before we even asked. Can we not do the same for others as well?
"Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV
Has the sun gone down on your anger? Is there someone in your life you have chosen not to forgive? The truth is, you have chosen to sin by ignoring God’s command and it is affecting your life in ways you may not even realize. Give your anger over to God, and forgive those who have offended you. Allow God to deal with the problem and restore your relationship with the Father to its rightful standing and begin again to enjoy the life He has planned for you.