Jesus challenges us to forgive others. It is a clear command and unambiguous.
That is our part to do. When we do, GOD forgives us. He is also clear that if we don’t forgive others, GOD won’t forgive us for missing GOD’s goal for our life.
Really? Yes, really. He said it. I think He meant it.
May I forgive. May I root resentment out of my heart and life.
“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.” | Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (Matthew 6:14–15). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Should we forgive our enemies and persecutors?
Jesus is all about forgiveness. That is the reason God sent him to us. I need forgiveness and the good news is that I have received it.
Jesus calls me to forgive. That is clear.
Let us consider this from Jesus!
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. | The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Matthew 18:21–22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Forgiveness is also an essential part of the life of believers. Ephesians 4:32 commands,
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in the Messiah God forgave you.”
Similarly, Colossians 3:13 says,
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Master forgave you.”
The key in both passages is that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us.
Why do we forgive? Because we have been forgiven!
The Bible tells us that we are to forgive those who sin against us. We keep no record of wrongs but forgive as many times as necessary. Refusing to forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger, none of which are the traits of a growing disciple of Jesus.
God promises that, when we come to Him confessing our sin and asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it for the sake of the Messiah. Likewise, the forgiveness we extend to others should know no limits.
In the Jesus Manifesto, Jesus gave several reasons for this admonition to love our enemies.
- This love is a mark of maturity, proving that we are sons of the Father, and not just little children.
- It is Godlike. The Father shares His good things with those who oppose Him. Matthew 5:45 suggests that our love “creates a climate” of blessings that makes it easy to win our enemies and make them our friends. Love is like the sunshine and rain that the Father sends so graciously.
- It is a testimony to others. “What do you do more than others?” is a good question. God expects us to live on a much higher plane than the lost people of the world who return good for good and evil for evil. As Christians, we must return good for evil as an investment of love.
The word perfect in Matthew 5:48 (Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.) does not imply sinlessly perfect, for that is impossible in this life (though it is a good goal to strive for). It suggests completeness, maturity, as the sons of God. The Father loves His enemies and seeks to make them His children, and we should assist Him!
- Luke 23:33–34 —When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
- Matthew 5:43–44 — “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
- Acts 7:59–60 —They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Master and said, “Master Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Master, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.