Following this prayer example, Jesus goes back and highlights only one aspect of the prayer… the aspect of forgiveness:
“14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
It is important to notice that Jesus is not referring to salvation in this passage, for in John 10:28, He declares that eternal life is permanent. Instead, the forgiveness in this passage is talking about the forgiveness necessary for fellowship. Here we learn that only the forgiving will be forgiven.
Forgiveness is at the very heart of Jesus’ mission to Earth. And, at His last supper before His crucifixion, when Jesus was speaking about His upcoming death, He declared that the blood He was about to shed was going to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
When individuals choose to repent of their own way and turn to Jesus for forgiveness, He does forgive and then He asks each of us to begin following Him. As we follow Jesus, we start becoming more like Him, and one of the defining marks of a Christian is forgiveness. As forgiven people, we are to forgive other the wrongs they do and have done to us.
All of us have been hurt, and as humans, we naturally feel we have the right and even a kind of responsibility to feel angry or resentful toward those who have offended us. Please understand, this is not talking about overlooking abuse or harm done to others, but is specifically referring to the choice to let go of the feelings of anger and resentment over personal offenses. Here, Jesus teaches that in the same way, or to the same degree, we chose to forgive others, we will also be forgiven by God.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines forgiveness as: choosing to stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offense, a flaw, or a mistake. I suggest, this forgiveness is to be applied to others who have offended or hurt us, but it should also be applied to ourselves because many of us punish ourselves for our mistakes and flaws. Instead of choosing anger or resentment, Christians are to forgive.
May we continue to grow in grace as we seek to follow Jesus. As a forgiven people, may we deliberately choose to forgive others, as Jesus instructs us to do.