14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. — Matthew 6:14-15
On the heels of the Prayer of Example in Matthew 6:9-13, this teaching reveals one of the keys to being delivered from evil: forgiveness. Christ followers embody the counter-cultural way of grace in the world and, in so doing, find salvation. To put it more succinctly, we must give in order to receive. Withhold, and it will be withheld from you. This appears to be a latent corollary to the “Golden Rule”; God dealing with us, doing unto us, as we have done toward others.
Forgiveness is a relinquishing of my right to hold a grudge. In our age of entitlement, releasing our high ground when we’ve been wronged seems counter-intuitive. “Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.” But the point Jesus seems to be making, both here and elsewhere, is that He calls His disciples to quit counting and start loving. That’s the problem with Peter’s question in Matt. 18.21, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Peter, God bless Him, is hoping to somehow quantify grace, to get a grip on it. Grace-in-a-box. But you can’t put parameters around grace or else it ceases to be grace and becomes something else entirely. Grace is slippery, squirrelly, wiry, elusive.
Sort of like Jesus himself.
Their hate couldn’t break him.
The grave couldn’t hold him.
When the powers flogged him and crucified him, they thought that would shut him up. But the Message he preached — unmerited mercy and unrequited love — endures because it emanates from eternity. The most oft-repeated phrase in scripture is this: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Why do we forgive those who trespass against us in the present? Because forgiveness is the way of eternity, a defiant refusal to live in the past by keeping score of mistakes and missteps.
Quit counting. Start loving.