In Matthew 6:12, when the disciples had asked Jesus how to pray, among other things, He told them, “And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This clearly teaches us that, in order to be forgiven, we must first be ready to forgive. If we are not willing to forgive others when they have offended us, then God will not forgive us when we have offended Him…and we do that all too frequently.
But I would like for us to look at two verses also found in Matthew:
- Matthew 5:23-24 If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
- Matthew 18:15 And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him hid fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained a brother.
The Bible clearly indicates in these two verses that the reconciliation of any trespass is on my shoulders. It is up to me to make the first move. Neither of these two obligations is easy; and, neither is dependent upon the other person. Read those two verses again. (Obviously, repentance is the first step for forgiveness, for we cannot be forgiven for something of which we have not repented; but that is another article.) God does not say that I can sit back at ease and wait for my brother or sister to come to me and ask for forgiveness. If I feel that a brother or sister has sinned against me, then I also, by definition, feel that that person is living in sin. Therefore, I have an obligation to that person to go to them privately and, in love, tell them what has offended me and give them a chance to repent and “make it right.” If I fail to take the first step, I have failed to follow God’s commandment.
On the flip side, if I am aware that I have offended another, whether or not I meant to offend, it is my obligation to go to that person and apologize for my words or actions.
Again, God has charged me that I must take the first step.
I cannot answer for you, but I do know that I daily need the forgiveness of my Lord. There are things that I do or neglect to do, thing that I say or neglect to say…some of which I may be aware and some of which I am not aware. If I realize that I need that forgiveness, then I must realize that others need it, also. So, here is the deal: Take time right now to think about your life. Have you offended anyone? For the sake of your own soul, no matter how hard it might be, go to that person and ask them to forgive you. Has anyone offended you, and that is eating at your peace? Then go to that person, no matter how hard it might be, and, in love, tell them what has offended you, doing so in love rather than condemnation, and give them the chance to ask your forgiveness. In either case, you have made peace with God.
Fredericksburg Church of Christ, TX