“…If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins…” Matthew 6:14-15
We need forgiveness in three dimensions: when we look up, when we look around, and when we look in.
If we believe the Gospel, the first dimension is a given. The great Bible word for that is “justified.” It literally means to ‘un-sin’ our sin. You can break up the word this way: just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. Plus, the word means that He declares us righteous. In the 18th chapter of Luke, Jesus pronounced that anyone who prays, “God be merciful to me – a sinner,” is justified. Can you see why I say the first dimension of forgiveness is a given if you believe the Good News?
The second dimension is more complicated. You need a special measure of grace to forgive those who have greatly harmed you. And you can’t control whether or not those you have hurt will forgive you. But Jesus mandated that we have forgiveness in this second dimension. When He taught his disciples how to pray, He literally told them to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we have already forgiven those who have sinned against us.”
At the end of His teaching His disciples how to pray He added a solemn commentary: “If you do not forgive those who have sinned against you, then My Father in heaven will not forgive you your sins. In other words, if you don’t have forgiveness in this second dimension you lose your forgiveness in the first dimension. What a solemn truth!
Those who have sinned grievously will tell you that the third dimension of forgiveness is the toughest one. When devout people fall into sin, they especially have a very difficult time forgiving themselves.
Pray for forgiveness in these three dimensions because the greatest obstacle to inner healing is un-forgiveness.
Dick Woodward, 17 January 2009