WHY MUST WE FORGIVE?
Jesus is the only good and righteous judge, and He desires mercy and salvation for all that would receive Him. The only true judge did not come to judge the world, but to save it. Since we have been shown this mercy that we did not deserve, how can we take on the role of judge by not being merciful to another?
“God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17 (NLT).
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” Psalm 103:10 (NRSV).
Mercy does not require payment for a debt. It is the forgiveness of a debt. Our debts have been forgiven through Jesus. He has commissioned us to release His mercy to the world around us, and offer to them what we have freely been given. We have not only been forgiven of our debts, but they have been wiped clean from the record. They are remembered no more. So, we cannot hold the debts of others against them, or the record of those debts. We release others of their debts to us, showing them God’s mercy, and we release ourselves as judge of another.
We do not have the authority or right to judge or condemn another. Once we receive God’s salvation—His mercy—we release any right to be our own judge. We now belong to Him and we trust Him to redeem all things and to protect us.
“There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12 (ESV).
“For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13 (NKJV).
It does not matter the sin, offense, or number of offenses; we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven. We are commanded to love as we have been loved. If we choose to apply unforgiveness towards another, we are choosing this principle against ourselves. If we choose punishment or payment for the sins of another, we are choosing punishment for our own sin. It is important to understand that releasing forgiveness to another out of obedience to God’s command does not necessarily mean reconciliation.
Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation. Forgiveness is showing mercy to another—releasing them from payment for a debt—that frees your soul from the bondage of that debt and the bondage of being a judge that you do not have the authority to be. Reconciliation is the restoration of relationship with another. In order for a relationship to be truly reconciled, there must also be repentance for harm or loss of peace in the relationship. While we are still called to love our neighbor, and even our enemies, restoration of relationship comes through repentance and making peace with one another.
“So if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and while there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there at the altar and go. First make peace with your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5:23-24 (AMP)