Today Brianna explores the concept of forgiveness that is so central to the Kingdom. Is it a condition of God’s forgiveness of us? Or is his forgiveness unconditional no matter what? And if his love is unconditional, does that mean it doesn’t matter whether we forgive others or not?
Today Brianna discusses forgiveness, both our forgiveness of others, and how it may be tied to God’s forgiveness of us.
There are two types of forgiveness that are talked about in the New Testament.
One of them has to do with our relationship with others. It is the act of removing an obstacle to a relationship. (Repentance and Reconciliation). If someone has hurt you or if you have hurt another, the relationship is broken and in order to achieve reconciliation, there must be a confession (repentance) and then forgiveness.
The other concept of forgiveness centers around God’s forgiveness of us. He forgives us unconditionally through Jesus’ death on the cross. It is a releasing of all debt. This forgiveness has no prerequisite. It is free and ours to accept.
The verse in Matthew 6:14-15 can sound like it is implying that forgiving others is a prerequisite of God’s forgiveness of us. But when we step back to look at the context of the rest of the chapter, the context has to do with prayer. Before we come to God to pray to ask forgiveness of our sins, we should look at our own relationships and make sure they are reconciled. In a practical sense, it would be hypocritical to ask for forgiveness while we ourselves are not willing to forgive others.
And if we back up even further to see the book of Matthew as a whole, it has to do with who we are as the church of Christ. So in this greater context, one can interpret this verse to mean not that it is a prerequisite of God’s forgiveness, but that BECAUSE we are unconditionally forgiven through the blood of Christ, we are called to look like that radical love. This means we must likewise forgive those who have wronged us, just as God forgives us. This is how we gain unity as the church, and as a people. (Also see Mark 11:25.)
The most transformative healing (of both relationships and individuals) happens when there is a moment of confession and repentance, which is a critical piece of reconciliation. We are to approach those with whom we have a broken relationship and confess, ask for forgiveness and/or forgive them unconditionally. This can lead to forgiveness and reconciliation in the most complete and loving, Christ-looking way.
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