Forgive Others or be Punished

After telling a story that concluded with the person previously forgiven, who was unforgiving, having his forgiveness withdrawn and being severely punished, Jesus states, "THIS IS HOW MY HEAVENLY FATHER WILL TREAT EACH OF YOU UNLESS YOU FORGIVE YOUR BROTHER OR SISTER FROM YOUR HEART". Note: for some of us, having previous forgiveness withdrawn is a more serious punishment than any other punishment. Some Christians prefer a manmade religious doctrine based on John's comment that, "if we confess our sins, He will forgive our sins". Confessing our sins is good but it does not take the place of Jesus command to "repent" or "Turn away from your sins" and certainly does not mean we can avoid forgiving others. Jesus encourages us to forgive others in the prayer He commands us to pray daily and then restates the importance of forgiving others by stating "If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you". And in case some did not understand, Jesus restates the consequences of unforgiveness by saying, "But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done". Some people say they forgive others and yet their tone of voice when they talk about certain people reveals a harshness and unforgiveness that indicates otherwise. Apparently, some people are willing to risk their being forgiven, for the selfish pleasure of harboring resentment and unforgiveness in their hearts. Knowing how people are, may be why God had Jesus advise that we could be punished for our unforgiveness. Sometimes very good people or righteous people will think they can rely on their past conduct and doctrines of grace to temporarily indulge in the pleasure of unforgiveness or other sins. God is very clear that "if a righteous person stops doing good and starts doing all the evil" things evil people do, "None of the good he did will be remembered" and "He will die" which may mean his eternal life or physical life or both. Jesus may be touching on this subject of backsliding when He says, "Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God" or "Much is required from the person to whom much is given". Forgiveness is not something we can be certain of, if we plan to sin! 1

As we understand that being unforgiving can result in our not being forgiven by God and/or having our previous forgiveness being reversed and being punished and/or failure to have eternal life with God and Jesus, what if there is a person who has been so offensive to us that we remember the offense or abuse every single day? Can we forgive a person who committed the most horrible, life changing offense imaginable? The answer is "yes" but it may take effort. Normally we just forgive a person and go on. If they offend us again, we can keep forgiving them, while trying to avoid giving them the opportunity to keep offending. If the terrible offense appears to be unforgivable and/or unforgettable, we may take authority in the name of Jesus over the "accuser" who keeps throwing it in our face and command him to shut up and leave. To forgive someone who has hurt us so bad we are not even sure we want to forgive them, we need to pray for them everyday as God told (Jn 12:49) Jesus to say, "love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you". As you pray for them everyday, you may start off telling God, "You said, 'Vengeance is Mine' do it to him God". You will eventually find yourself kinder in your prayers and over time God will heal the pain and hurt. One day it will seem unimportant to pray for them or you may forget to pray for the person you have forgiven. Jesus will set you free from unforgiveness. 2

1. Mt 18:23-35 (NI); 1 Jn 1:9 (IC); Mt 4:17; Mt 6:14-15; Eze 18:24; Lk 9:62; 12:48 (GN)

2. Mt 18:22; Mk 16:17; Rev 12:10 (NI); Mt 5:44 (IC); Dt 32:35 (NKJ)

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