Today’s Gospel reading ends with a verse that I really struggle with. It says: ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart’ (Matt 18:35). This is after Jesus tells the parable of the servant who refused to give a fellow servant who owed him a couple of rand after he had been forgiven a huge debt. There are other verses which speak about God not forgiving
us unless we forgive others.
Even in the Lord’s Prayer we ask that God must forgive us as we forgive others. So I wrestle with this concept of God not forgiving me if I do not forgive others. When John Wesley had his Aldersgate experience he wrote this in his journal: “while he was describing the change which
God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an
assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” Many of us know this quote and we stop there but John continues to write: “I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me”.
Maybe the question has less to do with God not forgiving us when we refuse to forgive others but more to do with the fact that when we refuse to forgive others we have not experienced and received God’s forgiveness. May I encourage you to receive the full extent of God’s forgiveness
and grace for yourself?