So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
We pray, in this model prayer prayer we call 'The Lord's Prayer', that our Heavenly Father would forgive our sins. In covenant context, we know that this was fulfilled through Jesus' intercessory prayer; 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do'. In Luke's account of the Gospel ( 7:28 ), Jesus instructs His disciples to 'bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you'.
The historical context of Jesus' words here tell us that it was to His first-century disciples, first of all, that these instructions were given. Those Jews who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah were undergoing persecution at the hands of their Jewish brothers, those who rejected Jesus, and conspired to put Him ( and them ) to death! These words were a precursor to Jesus' prayer on the cross, as we read in Luke 7:28!
Should we, as the Disciples of Christ today, continue to pray this prayer?
With the understanding that it is fulfilled in us, who are the Body of Christ, there is no harm in reminding ourselves daily that forgiveness is essential to right relationship. If we do not forgive each other, we cannot expect to be forgiven; the words may be uttered, but if either party harbors guilt and anger, the relationship will suffer until guilt is forgotten and anger soothed.
Jesus told His disciples to 'bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you'. Why would He give them instructions to this effect? Well, one reason was that He wanted everyone to know who were His! If these Followers of Christ, soon to be known as 'The Way', did not revile in turn ( Isaiah 53:7-9 ), but returned justice for injustice, and love for hate, then the world would take note that these were the True People of God, for it had been prophesied that the Messiah would do this!
Another reason that Jesus instructed them so, is because our Heavenly Father, better than any earthly father, understands the necessity of forgiveness; He seeks a right relationship with all His Creation, and knows that it is only through forgiveness that this will come about!
We MUST forgive, if we are to be forgiven! Most important maybe, besides the forgiveness of our Heavenly Father, is to forgive ourselves. If we cannot forgive ourselves, it is that much harder to forgive others! To reverse that, if we can forgive ourselves, it is that much easier to forgive others!
This is where understanding that we are forgiven utters its voice loudest; if we know that we are forgiven, then, out of gratitude, we can forgive others!
We should thank God every day that we are forgiven, that through this forgiveness we have the capacity to forgive others, and to maintain a right relationship, not only with our Heavenly Father, but with His People as well!
As we forgive those who sin against us every day, let us remember that Jesus gave this warning to those who had been forgiven, that if they, like the unforgiving ( wicked ) servant in the parable in Matthew 18:21-35, did not forgive their fellow-servants, they would join them in prison!
Let us always have an attitude of gratitude for the forgiveness we have been shown, and we will forgive our brother any trespass!
Charles Haddon Shank