“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15)
Not forgiving is holding a grudge, and grudges always seek retribution, seek revenge, whether it shows its ugly face in the external or the internal, grudges, not forgiving, seeks compensations for the actions taken against us. It is not normal behavior for men to forgive, did not Cain kill Abel, (Gen. 4:8) did not David on his deathbed seek vengeance on those who wronged him, (1 Kings 2:5-6) did not those who owned the slave girl that Paul cast a demon out of seek retribution? (Acts 16:19) Every single person who has ever lived has sought in one form or another retribution on someone, has not completely and totally forgiven another for an act committed against them.
We like to think, and perhaps as much as is possible we have, that we are obeying the command, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men,” (Romans 12:18) but we tend to like to hold onto those unforgiving moments, they place within us a form of false power, for the mind is wonderful in its ability to always believe we are right, and they are wrong. Unforgiveness festers inside of us, it rots slowly the parts within us that are kind, caring, and compassionate, it takes away our joy and hinders our fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord. But it does much more than that, it keeps God from forgiving us.
The account of the man who was forgiven much by his master, for he owed much, but would not forgive the one who owed him so very little, (Matt. 18:21-35) is a perfect example. What we have been forgiven of by the substitutionary death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross for the penalty of our sins is incomparable to us not forgiving others for their trespasses against us. Did not our Lord teach us to pray in such a manner, asking God to forgive us in the same way that we forgive others, (Eph. 4:32) are we not told to live as peaceably as is in us all? How can we live peaceably with those we will not forgive, to be Christ-like is to forgive, are we commanded to seek vengeance, or to give that to the Lord, (Romans 12:19) are we to seek retribution when someone steals our coat, or are we to also give him our cloak? (Luke 6:29)
You can lose so much by not forgiving, but the Word of God stands as truth, the worst, most terrible loss is that God Himself will not forgive you for not forgiving. I do not claim to know the consequences of God upon a born-again believer who will not forgive someone, I believe that all of us who will stand before Him will more than likely find that out though, we will lose something on that day that perhaps could have been gain for us. Perhaps we should do as Moses did, and ask the Lord to show us our “Secret sins,” (Psalm 90:8) those sins that we have yet to repent of that we are not aware of.
One of the greatest faults that each one of us carries within us is common to all of us, we will not forgive ourselves. Such audacity! To not forgive when we have been forgiven, to hold onto all the ill feelings within us for past sins that have been forgiven by God Almighty. There are individuals, God-fearing folk, who seem to find within themselves a nearly continuous need to ask for forgiveness of a particular occurrence in their lives over and over again, they have been forgiven, but they will not forgive themselves. This may be the most terrible part in the verse here in Matthew, that “If” is too big for them, they will not completely accept the forgiveness they have asked for and received, the sin in their eyes was too great, too horrific, they cannot see the forgiveness of God for they will not look past themselves. It is an affront to God to put ourselves in His place, and in this area many continue to fall.
Even in the Evangelical church there are hinderances in this area, for they will accept the repentance of a known sinner who comes to Christ for the salvation of his soul, but the brother who falls best beware, for their forgiveness is not so easily given to one of their own. Hypocrisy at its highest level. These also must be forgiven by us, or that “If” will find a resting place upon our souls. You were forgiven, forgive them. You have been forgiven, forgive yourself, only the love of Christ can do that, all we must do is accept it.