Why must I forgive if I don’t want to?

Yesterday I looked at “What is forgiveness”? Today we turn our attention to why should I forgive? Surely it is a choice we all have to forgive. “No-one can tell me I have to forgive. In fact there are some things that I could just never forgive!”

Of course there are some things that are very tough to deal with like sexual abuse, rape, mental abuse, bullying and there are a host of others that makes it very difficult for the victim to forgive. These are things where we have been hurt very deeply. The deeper the hurt, the harder it is to forgive. If someone spills coffee on my new shirt, I may be irritated with them, especially if they were acting irresponsibly. Or if someone pushed a grocery trolley into the back of my shin, whilst it may be painful, I will not hold a grudge. But when someone hurts you deeply or hurts one of your children, then forgiveness is a whole different kettle of fish.

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But here is the issue.

Jesus records a prayer in Matthew chapter 6, which we have come to know as the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus concludes in Matthew 6:14-15 that if we do not forgive others, then God will not forgive us. Now many people try and explain that verse away and say well it doesn’t really mean what it says, but I believe it means exactly what it says. Sometimes Scripture contains very inconvenient truth. This is one of those passages that I wish was not in the Bible, but it is so let’s deal with it. Jesus went to the cross for our sins. We know that God has removed our sins completely, if we are in Christ. In fact we have been given the righteousness of Jesus in exchange for our dirty sins. What a win!

But here where Jesus is teaching his disciples and us how to pray, he says we have to forgive if we want to be forgiven. You may say, but I thought forgiveness of sins is free. Now it seems there are strings attached. Well, the Bible says that forgiveness was given freely, but it never says it is free. In fact forgiveness is not free. That does not means we have to pay for it. On the contrary, we could never pay for forgiveness of sins. It is purely by grace through faith that we are saved. It is totally because of the sacrifice Jesus made with His blood. But for Jesus it was not free. It cost him his very life! And once we receive forgiveness it is not free. We have to take up our cross and follow him, even if it means to death. Following Jesus will cost you! It may cost you everything. So free it is not!

Jesus does not include a lot in the “Lord’s Prayer” but it is interesting that of the very few things he includes, he tells us to pray “forgive us, as we forgive others who have sinned against us”. Even there, we are saying to God, to forgive us in the same way we forgive others. If we hang onto hurt and refuse to forgive, we are saying to God, please don’t forgive me.

Jesus even explains it in plain language in verses 14 and 15. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. So must we forgive? Is it optional? Yes it is optional. But do not think my brother or sister that God will forgive you, if you do not forgive others.

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