Recently our pastor spoke on Matthew 18:23-36, and the next evening our small group discussed it. From this, a few thoughts.
Forgiveness is important. Consider: It made the cut for inclusion in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus did not explicitly list everything we are supposed to do in His short prayer, and He chose to include an injunction that we ask the Father, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” So why is it so important?
Well, when you think about it, being forgiving and forgiven is a trifecta: important for our own well-being, for how we get along with other people, and for our relationship with God.
It is not healthy for our own selves to bear grudges, to carry around hatred born of past slights and sins of others. Carrie Fisher said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die,” and Soren Kierkegaard said, “If a man cannot forget, he will never amount to much.” And if the two of them are in agreement, then who am I or anyone else to disagree?
It is also, needless to say, unhealthy for interpersonal dealings if we refuse to forgive other people when they do wrong. Other people, after all, are always doing wrong. The cost of refusing to let bygones be bygones is perhaps most dramatically illustrated in relations between national and ethnic groups, who make the Hatfields and McCoys look like loving lambs.
And since all people are always doing wrong, and since God does not like this, the quality of being forgiven is essential if we are to be reconciled to Him. We are each of us incapable of being sinless.
It’s clear, finally, that forgiving other people is not just something that God recommends as a matter of sound personal and social health: It’s a sin if we don’t forgive those who have sinned against us. Dwelling in the past is a bad idea, while being forgiving is present-focused, forward-looking — and it’s the law.
Is there a connection between grace and forgiveness, by the way? Well, both involve getting something good that we don’t deserve. Only God can bestow the former, and it can be bestowed even in situations where sin is not (yet) present, but the latter is something that we humans can bestow, too — and how nice it is to be able to do something so godly.