If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
The parable of the unforgiving servant reminds us that forgiveness is the natural result of being forgiven. Look at Matthew 18:31: “When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.” These fellow slaves recognized that there was something desperately wrong with somebody who had been forgiven so much refusing to forgive so little. And so it is with us. There is an inseparable link between receiving God’s forgiveness in our lives and our willingness to forgive other people. You cannot separate the two. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
Was Jesus saying that we have to earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving other people? Was He raising the possibility that we could lose our salvation if we do not forgive? Of course not. But Jesus was saying if there is somebody you refuse to forgive, then it simply indicates you never experienced salvation to begin with. Because when you truly understand what God has done for you, it is only natural that you would be willing to extend that same forgiveness to other people.
Some years ago, in our church in Wichita Falls, Texas, a woman named Dawn Smith Jordan came and shared her testimony with us. She was a former Miss South Carolina. When Dawn was twenty-one, her teenage sister Shari was abducted and brutally murdered. During the weeks that police were searching for the killer, he repeatedly called the Smith home and taunted the family. Finally, he was apprehended and sentenced to death. Dawn told us that she thought her family’s ordeal was over, that it was finally put to rest.
Then one day Dawn received a letter from her sister’s killer, who was in prison. The letter said that since he had been in prison, he had found Jesus Christ as his Savior–and he was asking for Dawn’s forgiveness.
How would you respond to that? Dawn told our church that forgiveness did not come easily. But God brought to mind Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Forgiveness is the result of being forgiven.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Freedom Of Forgiveness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2005.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org