3 Keys to Understanding the Most Sobering Text in the Bible.

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May 19, 2014

Matthew 6:14-15 (in context)

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.

CONSIDER THIS. . .

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.

No, that wasn’t a cut and paste error. And just for clarity’s sake,

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.

TRANSLATION: If I don’t forgive others, God will not forgive me.

He can’t be serious. . . can he? Maybe that’s why he took the time to add this comment after the prayer.

Let me offer three keys to understanding this sobering text about forgiveness.

1. Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. It means declaring a unilateral cease-fire. It is the willful decision to stop retaliating in any form. (including personal anger fantasies)

2. Forgiveness does not mean I have to tell you or anyone else I’ve forgiven you. Note the context in which forgiveness happens here– 6:6 Prayer. It gets worked out in direct conversation with God.

3. Forgiving others is first and perhaps foremost about your relationship with God. The warning here in v.15 is not a threat or some heavy handed behavior management technique. It is simply a revelation of reality: to the extent you harbor unforgiveness in your heart towards another– to that extent you will alienate yourself from God.

BOTTOM LINE: Begin working out your problems with others in intimate conversation with God. It’s a process. Start now. It’s serious. Remember, it is God with whom we have to deal.

Wesley amps up the effect with this:

In the meantime, while we do not from our hearts forgive our neighbor his trespasses, what manner of prayer are we offering to God whenever we utter these words? We are indeed setting God at open defiance: we are daring him to do his worst. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that tres- pass against us!” That is, in plain terms, “Do not thou forgive us at all; we desire no favor at thy hands. We pray that you will keep our sins in remembrance, and that your wrath may abide upon us.” But can you seriously offer such a prayer to God? And has he not yet cast you quick into hell? O tempt him no longer! Now, even now, by his grace, forgive as you would be forgiven! Now have compassion on your fellow-servant, as God has had and will have pity on you! p.130

O.K., one last time. . . . this time with feeling:

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.

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J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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