Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22
“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, you Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
Do you know a person that is miserable because they can’t let go of what someone has done to them? Are you that person? Some of you have had things done to you by someone that you love that I can’t even imagine, so I am not going to preach to you about forgiving them, but think of Jesus. One of his closest companions turned on him for money, 30 pieces of silver. He was spat upon. Jesus was whipped with a cord that had sharp instruments on it to remove flesh quickly. Just to make fun of him, the Roman soldiers twisted thorns into the shape of a crown and forced it onto his head. Our Lord was forced to carry the very cross that he would die on. Men drove nails through his hands and feet. And to add insult to his injury, the soldiers gambled to see who would get his clothes after he died and as they were doing this, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Then imagine the father that could forgive the people that did these things to his son. That is a forgiveness that is almost impossible for me to understand. I’ve met people that have told me stories of what others have done to them, and somehow, they have forgiven. There is someone from my past that for years would make me angry when I thought about what they had done to me as a child. But forgiving that person has released me from bitterness and I pray that he has asked God to forgive him.
As much as I may not want to, scripture is clear in Matthew 6:14-15. If I want God to forgive me, I have to forgive others. When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone, after answering Peter’s question, Jesus told a story. The king felt compassion on a man who couldn’t pay him back and the man begged the king to be patient. Feeling compassion for the man, the king forgave him his debt. Later, the forgiven man found another man that owed him money. The other man pleaded with him to have mercy and patience. Unwilling, the forgiven man went to have this guy thrown into prison until he could repay. This is from Matthew 18:23-30. The rest of the story I will quote from scripture, Matthew 18:32-35, “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed to him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
Jesus is crystal clear on forgiveness. If I/you want to be forgiven by God, we have to forgive others, and it doesn’t say unless they did this or that. It simply says we must forgive to be forgiven.
Do you harbor bitterness and anger toward another person in your heart? If so, remember the words of Christ and the mercy God has on all of us.