Jesus gave us a choice, weighing these two poles against one another.
We read in Matthew’s Gospel “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)
We know these things, yet we continue to try to find a loophole, a way around this forgiveness “law” which is not a law in the legal sense, but is a basic, simple law of nature: We reap what we sow. If we sow the seed of a tomato, what do we get? With one seed, we get a plant. We get this plant later on. Then that plant bears fruit, which is many tomatoes. That fruit is much more abundant than the one seed. What is that fruit full of? Seeds. Tomato seeds. What happens when we sow these seeds? Many more plants, many more seeds, much more fruit, bearing many more seeds. We don’t get oranges from tomato seeds. We get tomatoes, we get them later on, and we get a lot more of them than the single seed that is sown.
Having unintentionally opted into the position of patriarch of a blended family with varied personalities, genetic diversity, and very opinionated people with very strong opinions, I have to remind myself of this daily. I need to forgive every single offense so that they may forgive me and each other. I need to hold myself to account for unforgiveness as well as pointing out to them when they are being unforgiving, making myself a target. I have to prayerfully work out the peace accords, even when I am among the very wounded, or worse, when the ones whom I love are wounded. Forgiveness of the betrayal of a friend or family member cuts deeper than any sword. The only way that an atmosphere of safety and forgiveness can be achieved is if I am willing to forgive without reserve and allow a “do over”, the way that Jesus loves. No matter how betrayed I feel, the betrayal that Jesus suffered is much greater. Being that He took my sin to the Cross and died for it, even though He had none of His own sin, and yet forgives me all my sin, how can I not forgive anybody else? This has been easier said than done, but it is the goal.
Jesus gave us a model prayer. He said ” And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen [do]. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as [it is] in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Emphasis mine). (Matt 6:7-15)
The only way to achieve peace is by walking the way of the Prince of Peace, the way of unselfishness and forgiveness. If we are not walking in forgiveness, we are not forgiven.
It has been said that “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.” Unforgiveness is even worse than that. It is like a sick suicide bomb that slowly kills the person who is unforgiving and everybody close to them.
I am not sure who Goldie Bristol is, but she wrote “Pride is at the root of much of our unforgiveness. Because pride can prevent us from forgiving, excessive pride is often a characteristic of the unforgiving person. That person believes, ‘I’m far more superior than the person who hurt me. I don’t need him (or her), so I don’t need to forgive.'” — Goldie Bristol: When… Its Hard to Forgive.
Isaac Watts wrote in his Hymn “As I Survey the Wonderous Cross”:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
When we weigh pride, selfishness, and unforgiveness v. love, selflessness, and forgiveness, the former is found quite wanting, especially in the eyes of our Lord. If we are unforgiving, even to the point of making things up in our own heads to be angry about, are we being more like Christ or less like Him? When we harbor unforgiveness, are we more like Him or less so?