Summary: Is it possible to forfeit the forgiveness shown to us by Jesus Christ? The answer may surprise you! Time and again Scripture ties God's forgiveness to our willingness to forgive and by withholding from others what God so graciously extended to us, we are
“For 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.”
Unforgiven Christians! How is that possible? Isn’t it through forgiveness and repentance that we are reconciled to God and become Christians? So how can a person that claims to be a Christian not be forgiven? The answer is…by choice! We can choose to sabotage our own forgiveness by choosing not to extend to others what has been so graciously extended towards us.
Forgiveness is at the core of the gospel message. Without it there is no salvation. Our sins have demanded a debt to be paid. That debt is death:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”
It is a debt that we cannot pay! In the Old Testament when someone would sin, they would bring a sin offering, a pure, spotless animal sacrifice. The priest would offer the animal on the altar and the sins of that individual would be covered by the innocent blood of their sacrifice. The sin, however, was simply covered not removed. In order to redeem mankind from the debt of death that was owed, innocent blood had to be shed. Hebrews 9:22 declares that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” So God sent His Son, pure and spotless, without sin to be our sacrifice:
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
Forgiveness was extended towards us not because we deserved it, but because we needed it. Mankind was in quite a predicament. Our sins demanded death, and the One person who had it in His power to save us, is precisely the person we had sinned against. Our forgiveness lay in the lap of the person we offended. Yet, Romans 5:8 declares:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us.”
God knew that without His willingness to forgive there would be no reconciliation. Mankind would be eternally separated from Him. So He “chose” to forgive our offenses:
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
God’s forgiveness is a gesture of His divine mercy, a gesture that we as believers readily receive, but often refuse to model. We have lost sight that God’s forgiveness was not something merely shown to us, but to be shown through us!
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
When we receive God’s forgiveness we are not simply receiving a pardon for our iniquities, but we are becoming a conduit of forgiveness to others. Jesus, when teaching His disciples to pray, said:
“Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”
And again in In Luke 6:37, Jesus said:
“Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Jesus ties His forgiveness with our willingness to forgive. This is how we know that we are truly experiencing God’s forgiveness. We forgive as the Lord forgave us! Our unwillingness to forgive others demonstrates that we did not truly receive the forgiveness Christ purchased for us. We are still in sin!
How can we say Jesus Christ chose to forgive us of our sins, although we did not deserve it, yet not model that same forgiveness towards others? There is a story in Matthew 18 about a servant that owed his master ten thousand talents (that’s like a million dollars), but was unable to pay it back. The servant pleaded with him and Matthew 18:27 says:
“The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”
However, once the servant left, he found a fellow servant that owed him money (just a few dollars, compared to what he had owed) and he grabbed him and choked him demanding that he pay him back. His fellow servant pleaded with him for mercy, but he refused and had the man put in prison.
When the other servants saw what happened they told the master. The master was furious. In anger, he turned the servant over to the jailer to be tortured, until he could pay back all he owed. Jesus closed this parable with this statement:
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
In a tremendous act of selfishness, disregarding the sacrifice made by his master on his behalf, this man refused to give to someone else what the master extended towards him. In doing so, he forfeited his forgiveness. How many Christians today are forfeiting their forgiveness because of their unwillingness to forgive others?