But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:15

This verse feels a bit like, “Let’s make a deal.”

It’s a verse that has bothered me because forgiveness is surrounded by deep hurt. There are times I hold my pain rather than allow forgiveness to release it. I don’t forgive like Jesus. I wonder, “Will God not forgive me if I am nursing a grudge?” 

I want to forgive like Jesus, but there are times I sort of don’t  want to. I believe I  have a right to withhold forgiveness or nurse a grudge. My pride gets in the way of the freedom forgiveness offers and grace grants.

God has designed the act of forgiveness to remind the person doing the forgiving and the one doing the asking, that we are all  equal at the foot of the cross. We all need God’s forgiveness, we all mess up, we all sin. We need to be ready to ask for and to give forgiveness. Once we recognize that we are human we are ready to humbly push pride and self righteousness aside.

Jesus shows us Good Friday forgiveness has these two components:

Forgiveness is costly. Granting forgiveness doesn’t come cheap. Suffering is a part of forgiving. Look to the cross for what total forgiveness looks like.

Forgiveness is not always timely. Be ready and willing to offer forgiveness when those who seek it– ask. (Even if the ask is belated) Luke 23: 39-43, ” One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'”

The criminal demonstrates the forgiveness flipside:
1. Repentance, not just regret,  is a part of the forgiveness process.
2. Realize forgiveness comes at a cost to the forgiver.
3. Restitution must be sought to restore the relationship.
 It is never too late to ask for forgiveness. Of course sooner is better so bitterness can’t take hold but as long as we have breath, we can still repent and  seek forgiveness, like the criminal on the cross.  

Two words to avoid when seeking forgiveness are IF and BUT.

 “I’m sorry IF I hurt you.” instead “What can I do to make it better?”

 “But” This word but negates the apology and excuses the apologizer’s words or actions. Avoid explaining away your side when seeking forgiveness.

If the apologizer asks for forgiveness yet continues to repeat the same behavior, God has shown you something. Could it be  the apology was sought to gain something? Maybe the gain is the avoidance of discomfort or a restoring of the relationship in order to accomplish a certain goal or meet a need.

Right actions and a contrite heart will line up with a sincere apology. If not, forgiveness can and should — (forgive as God forgives you)  occur but relationship restoration or the type of relationship may need to be reconsidered and readjusted.

Forgiveness is a noble, humble, sacrificial, and supernatural quality. It is not intuitive. We can help our kiddos better understand forgiveness when we show them what granting forgiveness and asking for forgiveness looks like.

Our homes can be a place where forgiveness resides.

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© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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