The key word in this text is the little word ‘as’, the conjunction that joins the first half of this petition with the second half. When Jesus says ‘as’, He is setting up a comparison, a contrast between the way we extend forgiveness to others and the way God responds to us. This text says that we set the standard, we establish the pattern and God responds to us accordingly. What I am asking is for God to deal with me the same way I deal with other people in this matter of forgiveness.
I have to ask, as each of us must, how does that truth settle with my soul?
What am I saying, if my heart and mind are holding onto thoughts such as: I’m angry at him, I will not forgive him; she’s been ungrateful, I will not extent kindness to her; I just want to get even! If my heart is soft before God and my heart is open to the truth of His Word, these kinds of thoughts should frighten me.
St. Augustine called this text “a terrible petition”. He pointed out that if you pray these words while harboring an unforgiving spirit you are actually asking God not to forgive you. We are asking God to give us what we are unwilling to give to someone else. Jesus tells us in this text, we cannot have it both ways. If I want to be forgiven, I have to forgive others.
You might wonder is that what this text is really saying? Is God’s forgiveness of us somehow linked to our forgiveness of others? The answer is yes; the words of Jesus are straight forward, we cannot claim ignorance or ambiguity.
Jesus gives us this pattern of prayer in verses 9-13 of Matthew 6 and then singles out one part, and only one part for additional teaching. He spells it out so clearly, there is no doubt. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)
I must ask myself as you must ask yourself, do I still want to nurse that grudge? I do still want to hold on to that anger?
As strange as it may sound, there is such a thing as an “unforgiven” Christian; not that our salvation is in jeopardy; that would render the cross insufficient. But rather in the sense that the channel of God’s grace and favor is blocked. It means we are choosing to hang on to anger and to forfeit the fullness of God’s blessing in our lives.
When we refuse to forgive, we make a mockery of the cross, we block the flow of God’s blessing in our lives, we waste our time nursing old wounds and become enslaved to anger and resentment, our prayers go unanswered and our faith is rendered powerless--and that is a very scary place to be.
If God has already forgiven my sins through the blood of Jesus Christ, am I then going to withhold forgiveness from another? That’s really the issue. How could I be unforgiving after what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross?
Jesus is telling us that there is a vital link between the way we treat other people and the way God is going to respond to us. If you are a Christian, a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, if your sins have been forgiven, then you can forgive another. What God has done for you, you can, you must do for others. If you won’t forgive just know…if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.