When King David took Bathsheba into his palace and slept with her, he knew that he had to do something to cover up his sin. She had become pregnant and he brought her husband, Uriah, home from battle so that he could have time with her, that way people would think the child would be Uriah’s, not David’s. But, Uriah, being the good soldier that he was, could not think about being with his wife while his fellow soldiers were still out in the battlefield fighting. This upset David, so he came up with another plan. He sent Uriah back to the battle and told the commanding officer to put Uriah on the frontline so that he would be killed. Once the prophet Nathan confronted David about his sin, David prayed to God saying, “Against You, and only You, have I sinned.” That is the way it is with all of us. When we sin, our sin is ultimately against God alone.
In Matthew 6:15 Jesus specifically says, “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” I’m reminded of the parable where the debtor who owed much money to his master begged him to forgive him of his debt. The master showed compassion and forgave the man’s debt. But, then this man turns around and goes to another man who owed him money (which wasn’t as much as what the first man owed his master), and demands to be paid back. The man who owed the money begs to have more time but is refused and he is thrown into debtor’s prison. Word gets back to the master of what had transpired and he immediately has the first debtor thrown into prison also. He reminded him of how he was forgiven because he had owed so much money, but since he was unwilling to forgive the other man what was owed to him, then his debt would not be revoked and he would go to prison.
When someone does wrong to us, we tend to forget that our sins are no better than theirs. We think that just because we haven’t done something “as bad” as what was done to us, that it’s our right to not forgive them. But the reality is, our sin(s) are just as bad because God doesn’t see any difference. It really is very prideful to think that our sins aren’t like someone else’s.
What does it mean to forgive? Well, it doesn’t mean we can forget the wrong done to us. Sure, over time, we may not think about it as much as we did at first, but there will be times when something will trigger that memory of what that person did. Second, it doesn’t mean we have to be friends with that person. Forgiveness doesn’t obligate us to have any kind of relationship with them. We don’t have to buy them gifts for their birthday or Christmas; we don’t have to invite them over for coffee or dinner. What it does mean is that we are not going to be a slave to bitterness for what they did to us. The more we allow that memory of their action(s) to fester and stew in our brains, the more bitter we become and we find that the very thought of that person affects how we live our life. Ever known of someone who refuses to go to a family reunion/gathering because someone who hurt them in the past was going to be there? Oh, they were going to go at first but as soon as they got wind of Uncle Jimmy or Cousin Beth being there, they quickly changed their minds. Why? Because they are allowing that person and their past sin to control their life. They keep hanging on to that bitterness and refusing to forgive.
To withhold forgiveness from someone is like us telling God “I expect You to forgive me, but I don’t have to forgive this person for what they did.” God don’t play that game. We’re not above God. We’re on the same level playing field as the one who wronged us and I’m afraid that many will find out that those sins they thought were wiped clean, aren’t. We can’t expect God to treat us one way while refusing to do the same to others.