I was walking my dog the other day and stopped to chat with a neighbour who lives a few houses down the street from mine. He was shovelling snow – something a lot of us are doing a lot of this winter. We have a new city by-law that requires we shovel the snow on the city sidewalks that border our property. It has always been a suggestion and a nice courtesy to those who walk in the winter. Now it is the law and so many more people are clearing the sidewalks. Dog owners greatly appreciate the clearer sidewalks.
We were talking about one of his neighbours who apparently is not aware of the new by-law or chooses to ignore it. He immediately responded that he would be happy to clear his part as well if he had not been such a “bad neighbour” this past summer. It seems when he was cutting grass his mower spun a stone out with the grass clippings and it damaged his car. When brought to his attention he did nothing about it – not even an apology. It was obvious that my new friend had not forgiven his neighbour and would therefore not be helping to keep his portion of the city sidewalks clear.
In Matthew 18 we read about Peter who was apparently struggling with a neighbour or a family member along the same lines of needing to forgive.
Matthew 18:21-22 NET “Then Peter came to him and said, ‘Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times!’”
Rabbinic tradition taught that a brother could be forgiven three times for the same offence, but not four times. Peter, trying to be a better than a superior Law keeper, doubled that and added one – seven times. He did not anticipate Jesus’ response, which is not a congratulations but a correction. Whether the phrase should be rendered seventy times seven or seventy-seven is irrelevant; Jesus teaches us that believers in Christ have been forgiven more than they will ever be asked to forgive. They must cultivate a spirit of forgiveness, not a habit of counting offences.
Matthew 6:14 adds a bit around the edges to this truth…
““For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.”
So our forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others and not becoming offended.
Mark, the author of another Gospel, adds his thoughts on the matter connecting the whole area of forgiveness to our personal prayer lives…
“Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NET)
Paul, the apostle, in writing to the believers in Colossae writes:
“… bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13 NET)
And, of course, the very familiar Lord’s Prayer states…
“So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honoured, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.”
That is certainly stated in no uncertain terms. Forgiveness is a very important aspect of our walk as believers. We need to deal with our issues and learn to forgive immediately and totally. Otherwise, we are simply poisoning ourselves and hindering our relation hship with Jesus and others.
Just some of my thoughts after seeing how entangled my neighbour was because of the anger and unforgiveness he was harbouring towards his next door neighbour.