“For if you forgive men when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you”
Jesus made it quite clear here and in other places that we are to forgive the sins of others. He taught also that if we do not forgive others then the forgiveness of God will not reach us. The reasoning is quite clear – If God has forgiven us everything there is absolutely no justification for us refusing to forgive others – for withholding from them the grace that we have received. To withhold forgiveness is to place a barrier between the Lord and us.
There is also a another very practical reason involved, and that is the consequence of an unforgiving attitude in our own lives. Marianne Williamson has expressed it very clearly,
Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself
and waiting for the other person to die.
Unforgiveness is a poison that seeps into our lives and brings with it bitterness, unhealthiness and anger that can end up destroying both us and our lives – and which may have no effect whatsoever upon the person whose actions have given rise to our feelings. To change the picture, a spirit of unforgiveness is like a hook within us which jerks every time we are reminded of the person concerned. Healing will only take place when the hook is removed – and we need to remove it.
To forgive another is not to say that their actions do not matter – sometimes they matter very much indeed. It states instead that we refuse to be their victims as well and to live in suffering. Instead we hand them over to the Lord to Whom they will in due course need to give an account.
It is not always easy, and it may involve prayer, practice and even the counsel of a wise person. It is however a journey to freedom and worth taking.
Choose to forgive – say it aloud – ask God to make it real within you. If necessary keep doing so until it is complete.
Lord God, You have forgiven me for everything in my life – please help me to forgive those who have offended me, and enable me to live in Your freedom of spirit. Amen.