Matthew 6:14-15 (New International Version)
14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 18:21-35 (New Living Translation)
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
I have been hearing lately about people who have been alienated from adult children, old friends, past co-workers, relatives, etc., people that have strained relationships with others, because of some hurt that may have occurred in the past. Many people carry a past or current burden that weighs them down and keeps them from fully moving forward in their lives. In some situations this is even the case with someone who has died many years before. The hurt remains as real as it was when it first occurred. If you are faced with such a situation, what are you to do?
Yesterday I spoke about a Christians responsibility of seeking reconciliation in all relationships, and that doing so is living out our faith they way God desires. True reconciliation first requires forgiveness. Without it, we feel uncomfortable when we are around or speak about the person who has wronged us. We tend to avoid any situation where we might run into them, and if they are no longer living, the hurt and the emotions well up inside as if the incident just happened when we recall that person.
God offers us forgiveness of our sins through the shed blood of His Son Jesus on the cross. When we accept this fact in faith, we restore a close relationship with God and He brings us near through the power of the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? Once we surrender ourselves to God, we know in our hearts and in our being that we are forgiven, because we "feel" a peace that we cannot understand. In the same way, once we fully forgive the person that has wronged us, we will feel a peace that we cannot understand as well. No longer will we avoid that person, but through true forgiveness we will seek to restore, reconcile, our relationship with them.
The solution to strained relationships is simple. As freely as God has offered us His forgiveness of our wrongdoing, without pre-condition, we need to freely forgive all who have done us harm. It isn't easy, but the peace of God awaits those who follow His example of forgiveness.