If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, you Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).
Forgiveness is something all of us want to receive but most of us hesitate to give. Jesus makes it clear through many parables, that we can’t have it without giving it. He makes it very clear and there is no other way, no arguments, doubt or discussion. Forgiveness is a two-way street. You can’t expect forgiveness unless you are willing to extend it to others as well. Forgiveness is at the core of emotional well-being.
It is inevitable that the unforgiving person eventually will experience physical illness as well. Anger causes surges of adrenaline and secretes other powerful chemicals that attack the body. The stress we carry when we refuse to give or receive forgiveness affects our hearts, minds, and bodies. Many of our symptoms and diseases are psychosomatic because of the hurt, anger and the negative emotion we tend to carry within ourselves. To make matters worse, both rage and depression contribute to obsessive behaviors such as overeating, workaholism, overspending, and even addictions to mood-altering drugs. We cannot rid ourselves of emotional pain and its side effects unless we are willing to forgive. Furthermore, if we allow unforgiveness to continue, we are likely to experience depression, bitterness, or both. Most importantly it takes us away from God.
We are not able to forgive because we are not ready to accept our own failures. If we cannot accept our failures, we will not be able to forgive nor receive forgiveness. For Christians, forgiveness is nonnegotiable; it is the very essence of our faith. If forgiveness is the essence of our faith then why do we struggle so much to forgive? There could be many reasons but some of them could be our fear, misconception and the sense of losing control.
It is not easy to forgive. It is difficult when someone has offended us once but if they continue to offend us habitually then it certainly is difficult to forgive. Jesus never said that it was easy. When Peter came and asked Jesus how many times should we forgive, his response was, “Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22). Jesus never said anything that he did not practice himself. Even when he was crucified and was about to give up his life his prayer was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus is asking us to do something that is humanly impossible. If we rely only on human nature and our understanding, we will never be able to do what Jesus asks of us. But in Him everything is possible. So when our limited resources run out and we are unable to forgive, we can ask him to forgive others through us. In so doing, we take one more step of obedience and allow ourselves to become a channel of God’s grace.