The Door Is Closed to the Unforgiving Spirit

“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).

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 do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (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 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, the other party has sinned against us, or there are sins on both sides that need to be forgiven, in all cases we are to seek out the other person and do all we can to repair the breach (Matthew 5:23,24; 18:15). Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). And mark it well: “if it is possible, as much as depends on you” requires the doing of much more than we think is “necessary.” If God had thought of nothing more than what He “had” to do, He certainly would not have given His Son’s life to make possible the mending of our relationship with Him. It was, after all, we who had broken the relationship, yet His love did not complain about having to do more than was “necessary” to fix it.

But we should be extremely careful. In our conflicts with others, we may be wrong about who it is who actually needs forgiveness. If we think we’re generous enough to confer forgiveness, we need to beware of pride and faulty judgments. Our view of what needs to be fixed may be seriously out of sync with the way God sees it. So having a forgiving spirit means not only that we’re willing to forgive the other person; it may mean adjusting our concept of what is actually broken about the relationship. Humility may mean reversing the direction of the forgiveness — seeking the forgiveness of the very person that we, at first, thought needed our forgiveness.

“No prayers can be heard which do not come from a forgiving heart” (J. C. Ryle).                                            

––Gary Henry,

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