We usually think of a person who is forgiving as a compassionate, selfless being who loves people more than him or her self.
Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood emotions in the world; well, at least I think that. Why? Because we have been taught that it is important to forgive someone who has hurt you so that they can feel better when they apologize. We see forgiveness, often, as something we do for their sake, but the truth is that we need to be forgiving for our own sake.
God has commanded that we be forgiving of others; read Matthew 6:14–
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.
God is very clear, as Yeshua (Jesus) tells us, that we MUST forgive others their sins against us or we will not be forgiven.
The Lord’s Prayer that precedes this verse tells us we should pray for God to forgive us as we forgive others (And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors), which is a statement of quid pro quo. In other words, when we pray to God (in the way Yeshua told us we should) we are telling God that He should forgive us in the same way we forgive others. So, obviously, if we are unwilling to forgive others then we are telling God it is OK to treat us the same way, i.e., do not forgive us our sins against Him.
Yowsa!! Does that mean that even a person who has been Born Again, who has asked for forgiveness from God through Messiah and received it, can still be treated as one who has not been forgiven when he or she comes before the Throne of Judgement?
Seems that way, doesn’t it? I believe we are being told that when we pray to God to treat us as we treat others (think about Leviticus 18:19), yet we are unforgiving, then He should not forgive us, either. And that doesn’t mean forgiveness is revocable, it simply means we have told God it is OK to treat us the same way we treat others.
And here’s another important aspect to this: it makes no difference, whatsoever, whether or not the sinner asks us for forgiveness.
Essentially, we are permitting God to ignore His promise of forgiveness because we, ourselves, have failed to be forgiving. God is not reneging on His promise, we are rejecting it.
Scary, isn’t it? So, now can you see why forgiveness is self-centered? The very foundation stone of our forgiveness by God is the forgiveness we extend to others. If we refuse to forgive, we will not be forgiven. And that makes sense, when you think of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35.
Besides ensuring our own salvation, forgiving is the only way to release the pain. Understand, also, that when you forgive you don’t have to trust again- those are totally different things. Forgiveness is from God to us, and then from us to others, but trust is something that every individual has to earn.
This is also important to understand: your forgiveness of someone doesn’t make that person right with God, it makes YOU right with God. God is the only one (well, Yeshua also) who can forgive sin, and the sinner will have to ask for it from God, directly. If they repent and ask you to forgive them, it will make you both feel better, but overall it makes your relationship with God stronger and secures your salvation.
Forgiveness of others has nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with you and your relationship with God, and will affect your salvation. So, Nu? -what could be more self-centered than that?
And you know what else? In this case, it’s OK to be self-centered.