Matt 6:14-15 says, “For 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.” This sounds like you must earn God’s forgiveness through works of forgiveness. How are we to interpret this scripture?
Jesus gave different responses to people who thought they were righteous because of their own self effort. He was setting a high standard for the self-righteous so that they would see their desperate need for grace.
The truth is, we cannot earn God’s forgiveness. The measure of forgiveness we need is far greater than any forgiveness we could show to others. Do you think that Jesus put a price on forgiveness? Jesus paid for the price of forgiveness in full, when he died on the cross.
Before the cross, forgiving others was required to receive forgiveness from God. However, that standard changed through His death, burial and resurrection.
This is why Paul said in Ephesians 4:31–32 (Passion), “The Holy Spirit of God has sealed you in Jesus Christ until you experience your full salvation. So never grieve the Spirit of God or take for granted his holy influence in your life. Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love.”
I’m not saying forgiving others is not important; it absolutely is very important. If we don’t forgive others, it causes us to have toxic thoughts toward others and that is so harmful to us.
God is not withholding forgiveness. He paid the price in full on the cross, but we must believe it. When we do, the grace of God will flow and help us to forgive anyone who offends us.
Forgiveness is a result of knowing that you are forgiven. It is easy to forgive because God has forgiven us.