December 23 - LD 51, Day 7: Our Firm Resolution to Forgive
by Rev. Martyn McGeown
Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”
The fifth petition has two parts. “Forgive us our debts…” We have considered that. “…As we forgive our debtors.” This we must still consider.
We are debtors to God, but our neighbours are debtors to us. How we treat those who sin against us speaks volumes about the forgiveness we have received—or claim to have received—from God. We must carefully understand the relationship between our forgiveness of our neighbour and God’s forgiveness of us. One is not the condition of the other. God does not promise to forgive us on condition that we forgive our neighbours. Rather, our forgiveness is the fruit of God’s forgiveness—if we have received forgiveness, we will forgive our neighbours. If we do not forgive our neighbours, we show by that wicked behaviour that we have not received God’s forgiveness.
To illustrate this great truth, Jesus told a parable. A debtor owed his lord ten thousand talents—an enormous sum! The creditor commanded that he be sold with his wife and children and all his possessions. Terrified, the debtor asked for mercy: “Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all” (Matt. 18:26). The lord mercifully forgave him his debt—ten thousand talents! However, immediately after leaving the presence of the merciful lord, the erstwhile debtor meets another servant who owed him an hundred pence—a paltry sum, especially in comparison to the ten thousand talents which he owed his lord. The fellow servant begs for mercy, but his cries are not heard, and he is cast into prison until he pays the debt (v28-30). The situation comes to the attention of the master, who, in punishment for the debtor’s refusal to forgive, delivers the debtor to the tormentors (v34).
From this parable we learn a few important truths about forgiveness. First, in comparison to the enormous sum we owe God, our neighbour who wrongs us owes us very little. Second, one who has a cruel and merciless attitude toward his penitent neighbour shows that he was never forgiven by God. Third, the forgiveness of our neighbour must take the same form as the forgiveness we receive from God. We must send away the neighbour’s sins; we must resolve not to treat him as his sins deserve; we must not permit that sin to affect our relationship. We must declare to our neighbour who sins against us and asks for forgiveness, “I forgive you. I forgive you because Christ forgave me. Your sins against me I will remember no more.”
That is hard—it means we swallow our pride; we take a loss, because we relinquish the right to revenge and the right even to remember that sin or to hold a grudge. But how much harder was it for Christ to forgive us—He bled and died to procure our forgiveness!
Thus, forgiveness is the blessed fruit of forgiveness. Forgiven sinners forgive other sinners, or as LD 51 puts it, “we feel this evidence of Thy grace in us, that it is our firm resolution from the heart to forgive our neighbor.”
Have you sinned against your brother? Seek forgiveness. Has your brother apologized to you? Forgive him, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.
- Date: December 23
Rev. Martyn McGeown
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010.Website: www.limerickreformed.com/
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