What if I do not forgive? What happens then?
- I am not forgiven. In the book of Matthew 6:14-15, as Jesus is teaching His followers how to pray, He adds the admonition that if we do not forgive others, then God does not forgive us. It almost sounds like the unforgivable sin!
- I bind the sin to my children. In the book of Exodus 20:5-6, God tells us the consequences of unforgiven sin pass down to several generations. It makes sense. If I dwell on someone else’s sin for years, I start acting on this input. But there is more. If I am not forgiven, then instead of lining up with God, I line up with His enemy. How can that bring any good?
- I do not loose the sinner. In Matthew 16:19 and 18:18-35, even Jesus’ own followers had questions about forgiveness. He then taught them: when we forgive something on earth, it is forgiven in Heaven. This very thing happened to Saul of Tarsus, who later changed his name to Paul. When Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:60,) his last words were of forgiveness for his killers, of whom Saul was one. What if Stephen had not forgiven him? Would we have the writings of Paul, today?
Here is what I used to teach my children when they were young and beginning to discover that friendship is not always all fun. Sometimes they would get into little tussles and strike back or hold anger against others. So I said:
“If someone does something bad to you, it hurts. I know.
“But if you just do something back to them, it does not help you. You still hurt, and now they hurt, too. What good does that do?
“If you stay angry and then someone innocent comes along and you strike out at that person, you STILL hurt, and that new person hurts, too.
“You are trying to get rid of your hurt by giving hurt to someone else. But when you give it to someone else, it does not mean they can take it AWAY from you. They may take it, but they cannot take it AWAY. You leave them hurting, too, and they may try to get rid of their hurt by giving hurt to someone else, who also cannot take it away.
“It’s a little like the flu. I can give it to you, but then we both will have it. It just spreads.
“Only One person can take hurt AWAY, and that is God. If you give all your hurt to Him, He can take it away from you and make you feel much better.”
Now, maybe that was too simple for an adult, but it is true. It’s what He died for. Why not try Him out?