One thing I’ve learned in my 35-or-so years of ministry is that any time you talk about forgiveness, it resonates with almost everyone because we all need to forgive, and it’s really hard to do sometimes!
I want to explain why you can’t afford not to forgive. I will give you five very good reasons why it is to your benefit to forgive others. Whether it’s a small thing you need to forgive or some traumatic hurt that has left deep scars, you cannot afford not to forgive.
Here’s reason number one: If you don’t forgive, God won’t forgive you.
Here’s what Jesus said about forgiveness:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:37-38)
These words are serious! Consider exactly what Jesus is telling us.
First of all, the forgiveness we receive from God is dependent on the forgiveness we give to others. If we forgive, we will be forgiven. Conversely, if we do not forgive people that have wronged us, we will not be forgiven by our Heavenly Father. I don’t know how to expand or explain that any further. If we forgive, we’ll be forgiven; if we don’t, we won’t!
The passage from Luke tells us that our generosity in forgiving determines the generosity with which we will be forgiven. If we dish out our forgiveness sparingly—with a small measure—then that’s how it will be dished out to us.
Now, how important is it to you to be freely forgiven by God? How much do you need his forgiveness? Can you run the risk of not being forgiven regularly by the Lord? When you look at it that way, then a decision on your part to learn to forgive is the only sensible thing to do. You—and I—truly cannot afford not to forgive when you look at it that way.