“…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)
We need forgiveness in three dimensions: when we look up, when we look around, and when we look in.
Believing the Good News of the Gospel, the first dimension is a given. The great biblical 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. In Luke 18, Jesus pronounced that anyone who prays, “God be merciful to me – a sinner,” is justified.
The second dimension is more complicated. You need a special measure of grace to forgive those who have 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 Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He literally told them to say, “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 Jesus 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.
Those who have sinned grievously will tell you that the third dimension of forgiveness is the toughest one. Falling into sin, it is often difficult to forgive ourselves.
Ask God for forgiveness in these three dimensions, because the greatest obstacle to inner healing is un-forgiveness.
Dick Woodward, 17 January 2009