“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
As a child, I memorized the Lord’s Prayer. As an adult Christian, I realized how important memorizing verses in context help to understand what I memorized in the first place. To wit, many Christians memorize John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world”); however, how many Christians also memorize John 3:17, which reveals how God’s heart for us led not to condemnation, but salvation? How much more meaningful is God’s love for us when we know the option to condemn us existed, was warranted, but God showed us grace and mercy instead?
In the same way, I encourage us to memorize the epilogue to the Lord’s Prayer, Matt. 6:14-15. Christ instructs his disciples on how to pray, but adds this warning as well. It recalls Christ’s earlier teaching, when he says, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you…first go and be reconciled to him; then come and offer your gift” (Mat. 5:23-24). God will not accept from you anything unless you first forgive or reconcile with those who have sinned against you. This is a most difficult teaching.
When we forgive others, we often seek to impose conditions, especially if we are the aggrieved party. The other person must apologize, give recompense, or suffer before I can forgive them. None of those things were required of us when we received forgiveness from God. Instead, Christ paid it all, freeing us from the consequence of our sin. I believe in the same way, Christ desires for us to be forgiving, so that we are freed from the bitterness and anger that traps us when we are in conflict with one another. More than anything that prevents us from receiving forgiveness from God for our hearts are cold to that which Christ died for—our salvation through love and grace. Amen.
And…little Johnny came home with a bloody nose and a black eye. His father asked, “What happened?” Johnny said, “Well, I challenged Bobby to a duel and gave him his choice of weapons, just like in the movies.” “That’s fair,” his dad replied. “I know, but I never thought he’d choose his sister!”