When we read Matthew 6:14, we are told that if we do not forgive on earth, then our heavenly father will not forgive us.
That means being able to forgive is not just a nice thing to do, but is necessary for eternal life!
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Too many times people say that they just can’t forgive someone for the things they have done, or even worse, they say the person who did those things doesn’t deserve forgiveness.
Well, who the heck are you to say who does or who doesn’t deserve forgiveness? If God is willing- not just willing, but desiring- to forgive everyone (he says so in Ezekiel 18:23), then who are you or I or anyone, for that matter, to say someone doesn’t deserve to be forgiven?
But what about the person who is unrepentant? Certainly, if someone is a sinner, who sins on purpose and enjoys doing so, they don’t deserve to be forgiven, right?
Well, here’s the kicker, Folks- it doesn’t matter, one way or the other, if someone deserves to be forgiven, or wants forgiveness, or even cares about forgiveness, because you shouldn’t be worried about their relationship with God, but with yours!
Forgiveness of sin is between the sinner and God- no one else. Regarding the other side of this, meaning you, being the one who has been sinned against, God is concerned with how you react to that sinner.
Which brings us back to Matthew 6:14.
We are required to forgive; the sinner is not required to ask for forgiveness. Even though God has made forgiveness of sin available to everyone through the Messiah Yeshua, the onus is not on the sinner, but the one who has been sinned against.
And the most important thing we need to have in order to forgive someone is…humility.
It is hard for us to forgive others because we, ourselves, are sinful, selfish, and self-centered animals. We don’t want to see that person who has hurt us get off- we want to see them suffer as we have- maybe even more than we have- and the only way we can get over that feeling is to be humble enough to care for that hurtful sinner more than we care for ourselves.
So now we have to leave Matthew and Ezekiel behind, and go to Leviticus; specifically, Leviticus 19:18 where you are told to love your neighbor as yourself.
Love should be selfless; as Shaul said it should be. You remember Shaul, right? That nice Pharisee tent-maker from Tarsus? He told the kehillah he formed in Corinth, in his first letter, that without love we are nothing. No matter how many gifts God has given us, without love we will never measure up.
And with love comes humility- the ability to put someone else’s needs and desires ahead of our own.
What? You think humility is just being meek or unpretentious?
Moses was said to be the most humble of men, yet he was certainly not weak. He stood up to Pharaoh, he stood up to the 250 men under the influence (or should I say, rebelliousness) of Korach, and he was emotionally strong enough to judge the people for 40 years.
Humility is not weakness, it is strength. Believe me, it takes a lot more strength- spiritual and emotional- to be humble than to be vengeful.
In order to forgive someone who has hurt you takes a deep, spiritual understanding of the relationship between you and God.
It doesn’t matter if the sinner wants forgiveness or cares about you, or God, or anything- that is between that person and God.
Between you and God, God wants you to forgive that person, which means you have to put your feelings behind you and think of that person’s eternal condition.
It is hard to forgive; to really forgive, like God forgives, like as far as the east is from west forgive, is almost impossible for most humans. I know, because I can’t do it any better than anyone else can. There are things from my past that I still feel the need for closure, and that (to me) means letting them know what they did, and getting my own two shekels in.
But that isn’t forgiveness, and despite what some psycho-babbler might say about releasing the anger to help heal, releasing that anger is nothing more than just “getting back” at them.
I can tell you, absolutely, from personal experience (both giving and receiving), that getting it “off your chest” isn’t releasing anything, or healing anything: it is actually just throwing fuel on the fire.
Humility allows you to let go of the hurt and the anger, and I have found the best way to do that is think about what that person will have to deal with when they face God.
And we all WILL face God, eventually.
What someone does to you during this lifetime will not matter to you at all in the eternal hereafter, but it will determine their fate, and if you think of the eternal suffering that person will have to endure, well, if you have any sense of love for anyone, you will have to feel bad for them.
Realize that someone who hurts others is in more pain than any pain they can dish out, and that has to create some sense of compassion for them; even though what they did hurts- maybe hurts a lot- they are ignorant of the eternal suffering what they do will cause them.
If you find it very hard to forgive someone, even when you want to, then here is a trick: pray for them. I have found that when I pray for someone who has hurt me, my anger fades away and my compassion for their soul grows.
It also helps me to not feel anger: I may still want some sense of closure, to have my side heard, but I have learned (through the love God has shown for us) to be humble enough to not be angry about it, anymore.
And that is, at least, a good start.
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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!