March 18, 2012
The Door Is Closed to the Unforgiving Spirit
“If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14‑15 CEB).
In order to seek God with honesty and integrity, we must remove anger and resentment from our hearts. There is nothing that will keep us away from God more certainly than a failure to forgive those who have wronged us. Jesus said simply, “If you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins”
(Matthew 6:15). It is only the merciful who will receive mercy (Matthew 5:7; James 2:13).
A truly merciful spirit involves more than the grudging forgiveness of others when they come to us and beg for our grace. Jesus called upon us to be people of such character that we will not rest until broken relationships are mended, even if we have to be the ones who take the initiative. Whether the relationship has been broken by our own sin, that of the other party, or (as is usually the case) a certain amount of wrongdoing on both sides, in all cases we are to seek the other person out and do all we can to repair the breach (Matthew 5:23‑24; 18:15). Paul wrote, “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18). And mark it well: "if possible, to the best of your ability” requires the doing of much more than we think is “necessary.” If God had thought of nothing more than what God “had” to do, God certainly would not have given God’s Son's life to make possible the mending of our relationship with God. It was, after all, we who had broken the relationship, yet God’s love did not complain about having to do more than was “necessary” to fix it.
But there is this to think about also: quite often we are wrong in our judgment that the other person has done anything that needs to be forgiven. In seeing ourselves as big enough to confer forgiveness on others, we need to guard against condescension. Perhaps it is we who need to be forgiven. Or perhaps we have simply misjudged the other person's actions and erred in our assessment of how much wrong has been committed. Having a forgiving spirit means not only being eager to forgive, but also eager to believe the best — and humble enough to admit it when we've overestimated the wrongs that others have done.
“No prayers can be heard which do not come from a forgiving heart” (J. C. Ryle).