Do you remember bad things that people have done to you or said about you? I remember a certain boy that picked on me and bullied me when I was in elementary school. I remember people who have said bad things about me. I remember people who have stolen from me. The question should not be what do I remember, but have I forgiven them? Luke 17:3-4 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” If makes it so much easier to forgive someone when he comes to you and says “I’m sorry – I shouldn’t have done that.”
But what if the person who trespasses against you doesn’t repent – doesn’t come to you and say he is sorry for what he did? Jesus Christ was despised and rejected by the Jews. He was handed over to the Roman authorities to be scourged and crucified. While hanging in agony on the cross, He said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). After Jesus’ resurrection, Steven stood up to the Jewish leaders and told them that they had murdered the Christ. The Jews were so angry with Steven that they threw stones at him to kill him. Acts 7:60 “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Jesus and Steven were being killed by people who hated them. And yet, in each case, they forgave their killers and asked that God would forgive their enemies for their wicked deeds. What an example for you and me!
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to forgive. Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Then Jesus explains in verses 14-15 “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.” You do not want God to remember the sins that you have committed. You must forgive those who trespass against you. Jesus further taught in Mark 11:25-26 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” When you pray and remember that you have anything against anyone, right then and there you need to forgive him. Otherwise, God will not forgive you.
Matthew 18:21-35 “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Like the first servant that owed his master ten thousand talents, your debt to God is great. Like the second servant who owed a hundred denarii, the debt that others owe you for their trespasses against you is small. If you cannot forgive your brother the relatively small trespasses he commits against you, your heavenly father will not forgive you of all of your sins.
I would especially like to address the relationship between husband and wife. Over time, you see the faults and transgressions of your spouse. I’m not saying that you should tolerate or endorse sin. But It is very important that you forgive and that you not hold resentment and bitterness. Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” Love demands that you not hold bitterness against your spouse because of their faults or transgressions.
My encouragement to you is to freely forgive others so that your transgressions against God will be forgiven.