November 11, 2013
by Pastor Steven Olson, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Dassel

“That is one thing I cannot forgive. I will not.” Have you ever said words like these? Have you ever heard them? I am sad to say that I have, and on the lips of Christians! With a sense of righteous indignation, they have risen up as judge, and issued the sentence. “Unforgivable!”

With that sentence, a relationship is broken, and Satan wins. Satan always wins when we harbor an unforgiving heart.

When we refuse to forgive, we break both of God’s great commandments, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and to love our neighbor as ourself. We break the first command when we disregard our Lord’s many commands to forgive one another, and we break the second command when we deny our brothers and sisters our love.

Jesus highlighted the importance of this when he taught his disciples to pray. In Matthew 6:14, the very next verse after the Lord’s prayer, Jesus went on to say. “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive your trespasses; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This is a strong message and he repeated it more than once. If there is repentance, we must forgive (Luke 17:3).

What if there isn’t repentance, though? Jesus also had some words to say about this. In Mark 11:25, Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Here, He does not say forgive those you repent. He says ”forgive if you have anything against anyone” – and just in case we might miss the point, He not only said it, he did it.

Some of Jesus’ very last words from the cross were, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Even as He was dying, He forgave those who condemned Him to death and those who crucified Him.

So, what are we to do if our brother or sister sins against us? We are to forgive them, whether they ask for our forgiveness or not. We forgive them as God in Christ has forgiven us, and we love them, as God in Christ loves us.

And, what are we to do when we are the sinner? We must ask for the same forgiveness, as we pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Then, trusting in God’s loving forgiveness, we seek forgiveness from those we have offended.

Whether they forgive us, or not, is between them and God. Just don’t give Satan any ammunition by refusing to forgive or by refusing to ask forgiveness. Instead, choose to live as a forgiven and forgiving child of God.

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