Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
The Bible is clear that no one is saved by works, i.e., no one will ever gain God’s favor by the good things they do. God doesn’t grade on a curve. He doesn’t look at your life and compare it with everyone else’s life and then judge whether you get a passing grade depending on how you stack up compared to them. His standard is absolute sinless perfection. He has stated “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14) and He has also said, “Be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).
So, how do you think you stack up against the perfect holiness of God? I hope your answer is “not very well.” If you answer otherwise, you are extremely deluded. Yet, when we accept God’s free gift of forgiveness by putting our faith in Christ’s death to pay for our sins, God actually sees us as holy, as incredible as that may seem. He tells us this in 2 Corinthians 5:21 with these words “For our sake he made him (i.e., Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” What an awesome thing this is that the holy perfection of Jesus can be credited to our account by faith.
Yet, in Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 above, it appears that to be forgiven by Him, we must forgive others first. In other words, it appears that the “good work” of forgiveness will actually earn us favor with God. However, taking the rest of the biblical record into account, what this actually means is that if we have actually been forgiven by God, if we have been spiritually cleansed by Him, there will be clear evidence of this in our lives. One of the clearest confirmations will be a forgiving heart.
I spoke with someone recently who recalled wrongs done to him over 50 years ago. He is still dwelling on these offenses to this day. Is that a forgiving heart? Yet, if asked, this person would tell you that he is a Christian. I am not his judge, but given what Jesus said in Matthew 6, isn’t it safe to say that there should at least be suspicion about whether this person’s “Christian” profession is indeed real?
The Scriptures warn us repeatedly to examine ourselves, to see if we are “in the faith.” In one place it says “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Anyone can do good to those who do good to them. Look at the Mafia, for example! But only God can change the heart so that one can “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, (and) pray for those who abuse you” as Jesus commanded His followers in Luke 6:27-28.
So what about you? Is forgiveness and love for your enemies something that others would say characterizes your life? Would they say that you “keep no record of wrongs” which is included in the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13? If not, why not? Do you think that the Scriptures above might hold the answer?
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