The Truth About Forgiveness
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is a crucial component of the model prayer of our Lord. In this statement, we are asking the Lord to forgive us in the same way we forgive others.
We understand that we are all in desperate need of the mercy of God. However, there are moments when we hold on to anger and bitterness, and when one holds tightly to wrath and anger, they become poisons that lead to spiritual death.
The Parable of the Official who Refused to Forgive
Jesus thinks forgiveness is so important that he gives a strong illustration to teach His disciples. Matthew records the parable of the servant who refuses to forgive (18:21-35). When one hears this story, it would not be uncommon for us to have anger towards the servant who receives mercy and does not share the same compassion with his fellowman. Jesus shares how the servant receives forgiveness of an enormous debt, and yet he does not apply the miracle of forgiveness to another. We know that the Lord was referring to the mercy of God that is given to us. It is also clear He was referencing how we may lack the willingness to forgive others. When we nurture a grudge, we are guilty of the same thing.
We must remember that forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. The child of God does not forgive by an act of pride but one of mercy. As we have been the recipients of compassion, it is essential that we become that line to the Lord through forgiving others. When Jesus cries from the cross, “Father forgive them they do not know what they are doing”; He shows forgiveness. Facing death and those who consorted to kill Him, Jesus does not pray for divine intervention for His own rescue. He prays that the forgiving power of the Father applies to those who have wronged Him. There was no hatred or desire to retaliate. Jesus did not want to cause pain to others. His forgiveness was complete.
When the Apostle Paul teaches the church at Ephesus that they should be “tenderhearted and forgiving one another: (Ephesians 4:32), he suggested that the person offended must release the offense for their own benefit. Forgiveness is not for the offender; it helps the offended to clear their soul of bitterness. The act of mercy does not mean being a doormat. Passivity is not a component of forgiveness, as we must meet any injustice with firmness yet humility. However, our responses must be free of vindictiveness and bitterness. Always remember that God has forgiven us, and we are to model the forgiveness of the Lord in our everyday life.
When we forgive, should we remove ourselves from the possibility of being hurt again?
When we forgive, how are we to treat the person who wronged us?
Why are we incapable of receiving forgiveness when we do not forgive?
Bishop Eric A. Lambert, Jr.
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