July 22 I Friday
“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.” —Matthew 6:14-15
As Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray, He also emphasizes the need for forgiveness, and in order to receive forgiveness, we need to extend forgiveness. The reality is that we are going to stumble, fall, let God and others down and hurt one another. We need constant cleansing and reconciliation both with God and each other.
Afterwards, Jesus warns about the temptation of the evil one, saying, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). When we study the rest of the New Testament, we will realize that Satan loves to come into the church to steal, kill and destroy the unity of the believers. The evil one wants us to hold grudges, nurse our bitterness and remain divided because he knows that this is the greatest barrier to our prayers and subsequently our effectiveness as believers. Jesus knows that as well. The greatest hindrance to our prayer life is unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, rage, malice and not extending grace. These things impede on our relationship with the Father. Hence, Jesus embeds in His teaching on prayer the importance of being a people of grace. As we have received forgiveness, we are to be people who extend forgiveness to one another.
Forgiveness is a process that we work through, and it is not easy. If we have been hurt deeply, it may take a long time for us to work through those emotions; we may even seek the help of trusted elders, guides or counselors. Jesus knows all that and still invites us to work through the pain that others have caused us in the secret place—in the alone spaces with God. As we meet with Him there and bring our pain into that moment, we begin to discover that He, who is the Great Physician, begins to heal the hurt in our lives, and by His grace, takes us to the place where we can let go of that pain at the cross.
The very sins that we committed find forgiveness at the cross. The cross is also the place where the sins that others committed against us find the grace and forgiveness of God. He can forgive them, just as He has forgiven us. Jesus is calling our attention to the fact that the greatest price has already been paid for their sins. Forgiveness is not about forgetting what has happened to us, but letting it go so it cannot control the rest of our lives.
No matter what pain we have been through, may we choose forgiveness because we are forgiven.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, at the cross, I find Your power at work within me to let go of the pain and choose forgiveness, because You have forgiven me. Thank You, Lord.