Around the time when I was about 15, I began to go to a youth Bible study. I remember sitting down on the front row by myself and wondering whether or not I was going to enjoy the session. I had only been to this Bible study a couple of times, so I only knew one or two people. I've always been outgoing, so I knew that I would have no trouble meeting new friends and building relationships. So, with my confidence in hand I looked at some people around me and began to introduce myself. Everything seemed to be going great until I talked with one guy who began to make fun of me. I quickly snapped back at him asking, "Are you here to worship God? Or are you here to make fun of others?" For the rest of the night my eyebrows were pinched, my teeth were clinched and my attention began to hover more over my anger at this kid rather than my happiness of worshipping God.
Have you ever been in a situation like this? You've been made fun of and because of it you feel enraged? This experience not only changed my view of this other kid, but it also distracted me from my purpose-to worship God. In fact, I became so upset at this kid that I decided I would never talk with him ever again. Little did I know that what God wants us to do is far from what I had decided was best.
In Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus tells us, "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." When I first read this verse, I was stunned. I began to wonder why God would put a clause on His forgiveness. What is so important about forgiving others and why should it determine our forgiveness from God?
First of all, we all must understand that before someone accepts Christ, they must first realize that we all desperately need to be forgiven. Not one of us can meet God's standards here on Earth (Romans 3:23). Second, God has forgiven our sins and therefore we are commanded to forgive others who have wronged us. To remain unforgiving would show that we don't truly understand that we are in need of forgiveness! This would suggest we feel that we are perfect and therefore don't need God's forgiveness. Such a position shows rebellion against a personal relationship with Christ!
I realized later that night that because of God's forgiveness, I too needed to forgive others so I decided to forgive the kid that was rude to me. I began to feel much better and I realized that God's commands are there for that reason, to make our lives more pleasing to Him (which in return will make our lives much more pleasing to us).
Forgiving others is hard; we think that if we forgive someone it shows our weakness. We feel that because we were wronged then if we forgive them then it will allow them to feel like they can do so without having to suffer the consequences; therefore we feel compelled to take revenge. But in Romans 12:19-21, Paul reminds us that we should never take revenge on others! Rather, he tells us that we should leave that to the righteous anger of God! He also tells us that we should in a way "kill others with kindness"-making them feel guilty for what they have done.
It was years before I saw the kid that was rude to me; he ended up working at the same place as I did. The amazing thing was that he remembered the time when he made fun of me and he felt horrible about it. I told him that I forgave him long before then and that he shouldn't feel bad about it. Because of my forgiveness, our relationship grew into one that was very important to each of us. Ever since then, I understood the importance of our forgiveness of others. For without God's forgiveness, our relationship with Him would be non-existent and without our forgiveness of others, the path to God's forgiveness becomes blocked by our selfish pride.
Do you take God's forgiveness for granted by not forgiving others? The key to forgiving others is to remember how much God forgives us. If it is difficult for you to forgive someone who has wronged you a little, remember that God has forgiven you for a lot. God's infinite love and forgiveness can and should give you motivation to forgive others. Constantly strive to forgive others and let God deal with those who have done wrong to you. Live to forgive, for our forgiveness of others opens the doorway to God's forgiveness in our lives.