“ 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.”
Where this is so frequently misapplied is in the realm of salvation. This is not saying if you don’t forgive everyone your heavenly Father won’t forgive your sins either and you can’t be saved. We know it doesn’t mean that because God Himself doesn’t forgive everyone, He only forgives the believing and repentant sinner and God would never ask or expect us to do something He himself does not do. It is also important to note that if forgiving others is essential to our own eternal forgiveness then salvation is not free and the “work” of forgiveness is required to obtain it, which denies everything else the Bible says about salvation as a gift of God and not of works. (Ephesians 2:8)
So what does this mean? It means several things the first being that there are two types of forgiveness, judicial forgiveness in the eternal sense and parental or lateral forgiveness in the earthly or temporal sense. Christ died for us “while we were yet sinners” Romans 5:8, and our sins were pardoned while we were yet undeserving. This is judicial forgiveness and there is nothing more Christlike than when we forgive unthinkable sins committed against us, Jesus did and even prayed for those who nailed him to the cross for their sins. It is not judicial forgiveness however that is in view in Matthew 6. Jesus had just answered the disciples inquiry about prayer and gave them a model for prayer which included the petition for forgiveness for trespasses as we forgive the trespasses of others. This sets the context for us so we can see the true meaning of this frequently misappropriated statement.
What Jesus is saying is that we are to be like Him even in the realm of underserved forgiveness. The “this life” consequences of our own sins in the form of guilt and shame and all the associated aspects of sin can only be experienced to their fullest by forgiving others. If we are not willing to forgive the underserving then we cannot experience the freedom that comes from forgiveness. The point is this; Forgiving others is about your joy, your happiness, your peace, even your healing and not the worthiness or admission of guilt by the one who hurt or harmed you. God says, in essence, I want you to forgive so unforgiveness doesn’t damage your health, your emotions and leave you living life in a continual wounded state, is how we could understand this.
Excerpt from “Dancing With the Scars” now available on Amazon.