Forgiveness is not always easy for us but it is definitely necessary if we want forgiveness in return from our Heavenly Father. I'm reminded of the instruction Christ gave his disciples in Matthew 18:21-35 when he used debts as an example to illustrate his point. This great example teaches us how we should and should not treat our brothers when it also came to their trespasses against us (vs. 35). In his illustration, the large debt was first forgiven the large debtor by the Master. It was after that debt was forgiven him that he chose to pursue the one who was in debt to him. We see the first debtor did not pass on the same forgiveness that the Master extended to him to his own debtor. This ultimately ended up in a lack of forgiveness for the first debtor and punishment.
We can remember from the Old Testament how God always instructed the Israelite how they were to treat their brothers and sisters. This was, in many cases, different of how they were to treat those of the foreign nations surrounding them. God held them to a higher standard when it came to their own. This concept of compassion for their brother and sisters was commanded throughout the Old Law and nothing new to the Jew or the early church.
As Matthew chapter 18 closes, and as mentioned before, Christ instructs us that we will be dealt with according to how we dealt with our brothers and their trespasses. “So my Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses (vs35 NKJV).” Notice, forgiveness has to be from the heart and cannot be only an outward gesture. By the way, as we mentioned earlier, this was not a new concept to those familiar with the Old Law, but neither was this a new teaching from Christ.
Early on in Christ's preaching, during his famous sermon of Matthew chapters 5,6 and 7, he was beginning his preaching and was gaining the attention and following from all over the regions around him. It is documented that he was followed from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and beyond the Jordan. During that famous sermon mentioned above, he was already making the point in his teaching that you must forgive others if you expect forgiveness in return. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6: 14, 15 NKJV).
This is a consistent lesson taught us from the times of old through out the Law and into the teachings of Christ. We all need forgiveness if we expect an eternity in heaven with God so let us all be quick to forgive our brother and sisters and we will be able to receive the same from our Heavenly Father.
- Marc Hopkins