Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
The most pervasive myth about forgiveness is this: we can only forgive those who are willing to ask for forgiveness. The problem with that is if you make forgiveness dependent upon what another person does or does not do, you remain a prisoner of bitterness until they choose to ask.
But good grace understands that forgiveness is unconditional. In Mark 11:25-26, Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” Let’s say you are reading this right now, and all of a sudden, God brings to your mind somebody who wronged you. Maybe it is your boss who made an unkind comment about your work. Maybe it is a former mate who betrayed you. Maybe it is a parent who abused you in some way. What are you supposed to do? That person who wronged you is probably not sitting next to you right now–they may not even be alive. They cannot or will not ask you for forgiveness. So are you going to be a prisoner of bitterness for the rest of your life? No, Jesus said you have the ability right now to let go of that offense–in fact, He commanded it.
When you refuse to forgive, you hold on to resentment. The word “resent” means “to feel again.” And that is exactly what happens when you do not let go of an offense–you experience that hurt over and over again. But when you forgive somebody, you are saying, “What this person did was wrong, and they deserve to pay for it. But I am not going to remain bound to them any longer. I am going to let God settle the score.”
When you refuse to do that, it is like, as somebody has said, drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. Bitterness hurts you much more than it hurts the one who wronged you. S. I. McMillen described the scenario perfectly: “The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. . . . I can’t escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. When the waiter serves me [steak], it might as well be stale bread and water. My teeth chew the food and I swallow it, but the man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it.” That is why the Bible says you have the ability to forgive regardless of what your offender does or does not do. Forgiveness is not earned; it is granted.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good-Grace Decision-Making” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.
S. I. McMillen, “None of These Diseases” (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1963), 73-74.
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