If You Do Not Forgive

16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

Psalms 18:16-19

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:15-21

In the past I have made a big deal of the idea that the people around us are the greatest expression of the wrath of God. We feel their judgment and their potential judgment and rejection all the time. We stand in constant need of money and respect and success in our marriage and parenting, and we are constantly falling short every which way. When we are crossed we are angry with our brother, when it is before us we lust in our hearts, when we have need we constantly fear for our provision. In large or subtle ways we fear those who hate us. The kingdom of this world is a world of thinly masked hatred, and a huge part of the fear is that the justice which rules these relationships is strong against us. I have had people argue that this position is extreme and that these judgments are rare if ever present, but it rings hollow to me. I was recently unemployed for over a year, and I also through many twists of providence just moved. I promise you, if I had not paid our rent for a couple of months at our old place, we would have been thrown out on the streets, no matter how nice and how unthreatening our landlord has been toward us. As a proof, he has come after us for thousands of dollars for things which for all the world are normal wear and tear after 5 years of living, and we will in all likelihood have to go to small claims court. Mercy was never what ruled that relationship! So we live in all too present a way in a world of wrath whether you have the eyes to see it right now or not. We all truly need rescue from our strong enemy who hates us. Job was for all the world blameless, and Satan still found true fault with him. That is his game, and we are not privy to his arguments.

So, when we enter the kingdom of grace, we receive a massive and lavish measure of mercy. When we say that we are “saved”, it is this hatred and curse of judgment that we are saved from. Furthermore, we enter a world where all who are citizens therein are likewise rescued. Forgiveness is the ground floor, the very air we breathe. It is paradoxically the one rule: forgive as Christ has forgiven you (Colossians 3:13). This is because this is what the blood of Christ has achieved – mercy. It isn’t really a rule, it is bottom level evidence of entry. If someone is unmerciful, it is a sign of unbelief in the power of His blood, and of pretense and falsehood of their own release from bondage. They are still under the old covenant because they relate to people under the guise of the old covenant. If we still judge and hate, we remain as instruments of Satan and not of the Gospel of Christ.

Yet, even as we enter the kingdom of grace, we remain as Joseph’s brothers. Even though he has expressed an incredible level of forgiveness and abundant mercy for them, they still bear a lingering doubt. Can his mercy be true? Really true? Surely now, this new circumstance nullifies the forgiveness. Surely now we will be hated, surely now our rescue from our expected hatred will prove to have been a trap! We constantly doubt the strength of God’s mercy towards us. But Jesus did not cry out from the cross, “It is started!” He cried out, “It is finished!” In every possible circumstance in every relationship, we can expect mercy to be the rule with our brothers and sisters. We are all together thoroughly and completely forgiven and accepted and beloved. Jesus has shed His own blood to make it so, and we cannot undo that work. He has made a way for us to forgive easily from the heart, not because we are great forgivers, but because we are all greatly forgiven! If you believe that for yourself then you believe it for all others who believe the same amazing thing. Our familial ties to Jesus remain true because of His faithfulness even though we retreat into fear and doubt, because He is indeed our savior. Our faithfulness does not save us, His faithfulness saves us.

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