Last week, when we were talking about the model prayer that Jesus gave His disciples, I made quick mention of Matthew 6:14-15. I think these two verses warrant a little further discussion. As I said last week, Jesus has already paid the price for our sins, and His gift of forgiveness is freely available to us; all we have to do is accept it. Our request for daily forgiveness helps us to be aware of our own sins, and helps to keep us in a right relationship with God—one where we depend on His love and grace.
Matthew 6:14-15 says that God will not forgive our sins unless we forgive others. We must be careful not to interpret this in a way that will contradict other passages of scripture. Romans 3:24 tells us that we are all justified by God’s grace through the redemption that has been provided by the death of Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace through faith. It is a gift from God, and not something that we can earn. Therefore Matthew 6:14-15 cannot be referring to the matter of salvation. If you have accepted Christ’s salvation, however, and you want to be His follower, you should be willing to forgive others. Of course, our human nature is a factor, and it isn’t always easy. I know there have been many times that I have prayed something like, “Lord, I really want to forgive, because I know it is the right thing to do, but my heart isn’t quite in it yet. Please help me.”
We must also remember that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Dr. Grant Mullen, author of Emotionally Free explains. “Forgiveness involves just you and God. Reconciliation requires another person. So, just because you forgive doesn’t mean you’re reconciled or that you have to reconcile. Some people are just too dangerous to reconcile with. You just have to forgive and be separate.” Let us hope that that is not true of our fellow followers of Christ. God would like us all to be one family, His family, characterized by love for each other, but since we live in a fallen world, that isn’t always possible. We cannot always determine how others will act toward us, but we can control how we act towards them. If we want to do it God’s way, that will be with love and forgiveness.