We, at Sharon Community Church, had a nice discussion on forgiveness a few nights ago. We looked at how Jesus and the scriptures tell us to forgive compared to how we actually forgive. It seems that we often think we can pick and choose when and how to forgive, and even sometimes justify not forgiving, as if some people are beyond forgiveness.
This is not to say that forgiveness is easy and that it doesn't often consist of a long and painful process, however, Jesus seems to be clear that we are to forgive unconditionally and as many times as needed.
Among the many scriptures looked at, a few stood out to me though.
Matthew 6:14-15 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.
Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
In the few verses listed above, it seems as though God's forgiveness is conditional. It looks as if God only forgives us, if we forgive others. There are conditions.
This idea seems to go against other teachings throughout scripture about forgiveness, especially Jesus' own teachings.
Jesus tells his followers to forgive unconditionally and to forgive as many times as it takes when someone sins against them.
In scripture, We are commanded to forgive and at the same time told to be imitators of God.
So if God doesn't forgive unconditionally then why would we be expected to forgive unconditionally? Or if our God doesn't forgive, then why would we forgive?
When discussing unconditional forgiveness someone even spoke up and said, "well doesn't God require us to come before Him and ask forgiveness before He can forgive us?"
And here-in lies the problem... What kind of God do we follow?
If we believe that God requires something from us in order to forgive, then of course we will require something from others before we will forgive them. We often do become imitators of God, the problem is that it is often not the God revealed through Jesus that we are imitating.
So, in light of Jesus' other teachings on forgiveness, how do you interpret verses such as the ones listed above that seem to indicate that God's forgiveness is dependent upon something we have to do or fulfill in order to receive it?
What say you?
And Tomorrow I'll give my thoughts on how I understand the verses listed above in light of the unconditional forgiveness seen throughout the rest of scripture.