When looking at the model prayer of Matthew 6:9-13 if we are not careful we stop at the word “Amen,” and in turn miss the very next verse that teaches why the Lord leads us to forgive in verse twelve of that passage.
The definition found in Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary shows: FORGIVE, verb transitive forgiv’. preterit tense forgave; participle passive forgiven. [Latin remitto.] (1.) To pardon; to remit, as an offense or debt; to overlook an offense, and treat the offender as not guilty. The original and proper phrase is to forgive the offense, to send it away, to reject it, that is, not to impute it, [put it to] the offender. But by an easy transition, we also use the phrase, to forgive the person offending.
Forgiveness is sometimes very difficult.
In order to be placed in a position where you have to choose whether to forgive or not forgive there would have to be something done to you, against you, or you would have had to experienced some type of mistreatment.
The forgiveness that the father of the prodigal son showed is not often considered “radical” because what father would not choose to forgive his son? Yet, the picture of the prodigal son coming home is one of great value as we see the father standing on the porch as if he is waiting and watching for his son to return.
Now, as we tell the story we often add the colorful details that the father would wait each and every day with a longing and the anticipation that his son would in fact return, but he did not know when. Then came the glorious day when off in the distance that father recognized the walk, the posture, or maybe the manner in which his son was coming down the road back to his home.
This is such a wonderful story, but the resounding truth is that the father had forgiven the son before the son ever asked for it. The father was eager to welcome the wandering son back into his home, not as a servant, but as his son.
On the other hand, the older brother had not forgiven and when faced with the moment that he had to decide how he would respond to his young brother’s return he errored and chose to be angry and maybe even bitter.
Far too often we wait for the one who has inflicted the pain to ask for forgiveness and this delay results in being bound by the anguish that the hurt inflicted. It is our failure to forgive that causes an infection to set in and our life will begin to fester with the hurt, anger, hatred and now bitterness that we have allowed to take root in our life. We truly begin to hurt those closest to us when we refuse to forgive those who have hurt us.
The words of our Saviour rang out through the darkened sky of the mid-day hours when he cried, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” In that statement He forgave those of the past, present, and future. Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
Forgiveness is one of the threads that makes up the fabric of Scripture, and can be seen from Genesis to Revelation.
Jonah struggled with the people of Nineveh being spared because he could not forgive them for what they had done to his people (the Jews) through the years. He was delighted that judgment was coming, and when he learned that they would be spared he allowed his hatred toward them to cause him to pout and doubt the mercy of God. Yet, in all honesty, the only reason he was able to go and preach to them was because when he ran from God, the Lord bestowed mercy upon him. I wonder if he, like we have done, compared the mercy shown to him with the mercy being shown to the Ninevites and thought that his rebellion toward God was not nearly as bad as the rebellion of the Ninevites toward God.
It is a sad day when we compare our situation against the situations of others and deem ourselves worthy of forgiveness, but act as though others are undeserving of forgiveness because their act was “so much worse.”
Everyone who reads this blog, and even those who do not, have all had to choose whether or not they would forgive someone. The reality is this: forgiveness set the offended free. Whether or not the one who offended you ever asks for forgiveness; you should forgive them so that you are not fettered by the hurt, anger, hatred or bitterness. You may have been in the right, but you still should forgive. You may have never done anything deserving of the inflicted pain, but you should still forgive.
Too choose not to forgive could be deemed the height of hypocrisy when compared to our Lord Who forgave us before we even asked.
The Lord does not have to decide when I come to Him for salvation if He will forgive me or not. No way friends! The Lord forgave me far before I ever asked, and He has forgiven you too.
Have you been hurt? You are not alone! Everyone has, but the question should be, “have you forgiven?” How hypocritical it is to benefit of the forgiveness of God and claim salvation, and then turn and refuse to forgive someone because of what they have done to you. [Reference Matthew 18:21-35 where it gives a clear account of a man forgiven who turned around, after being forgiven and chose to not forgive another.]
One thing that I have found through my years of ministry is that there are many times where people are bound by their unforgiveness and the person that they are mad at does not even know that you are angry with them, nor do they know that they offended you.
In conclusion may I encourage the reader to forgive. Oh, I am not saying it will be easy, but in comparison to the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father toward us, it is the right thing to do.
Happily married to Sarah G, the father of three incredible children.