Sometimes forgiveness doesn’t come natural–maybe most of the time. In simple terms, to forgive is to let go, to release someone of the debt they owe you for what they have done to you or to a loved one. Yet Jesus’ addendum to the Lord’s Prayer is unrelenting:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14, ESV)
This begs the question: does my forgiveness of others bring about Jesus’ forgiveness of me? The answer is “No!” Jesus’ forgiveness of you comes out of his great grace toward you. When you receive Christ as Savior, you are forgiven, redeemed, justified and free to live a life you never dreamed possible.
But what about those who hurt you? Why should you forgive them? Why would Jesus add such difficult words at the end of such a beautiful prayer?
R. T. Kendall offers these motivations:
- Salvation is unconditional; fellowship with the Father is conditional.
- Justification before God is unconditional; the anointing of the Spirit is conditional.
- Our status in the family of God is unconditional; our intimacy with Christ is conditional.
- Our eternal destiny—whether we go to heaven or to hell—is fixed, but receiving an additional reward is conditional.
If your relationship with God is strained, if you struggle to sense God’s Spirit at work in your life, if your intimacy with Christ seems nonexistent, ask yourself if there is someone you haven’t forgiven. And forgive…Now! Do the hard work of forgiveness.
I offer a prayer to help you get started.
Father, I honestly don’t want to forgive ______________________ (the person who has hurt you). They have __________________________ (whatever they’ve done). Yet I want and desperately need your forgiveness. I need your help forgiving _____________________ (the person). I trust that you, through your Spirit, will give what I need to forgive __________________________ (the person). Thank you for forgiving me.