Forgive as You Are Forgiven

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Psalms 37:21 Psalms 37:21The wicked borrows, and pays not again: but the righteous shows mercy, and gives.
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says that “the righteous shows mercy and gives.” Echoing the Lord’s requirement that we “love mercy” in Micah 6:8 Micah 6:8He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
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, Jesus said that mercy is one of “the weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
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).

In the Beatitudes opening His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7 Matthew 5:7Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
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). Later in the same message, He gave an outline for prayer known as the Lord’s Prayer, telling us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 Matthew 6:12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
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). This is speaking of what is owed for having done wrong.

Luke records this line elsewhere as “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4 Luke 11:4And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
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). After relating the Lord’s Prayer outline in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus immediately called attention to this particular aspect, declaring: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15 Matthew 6:14-15 [14] For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: [15] But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
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).

So it’s vital that we not bear grudges but, instead, intentionally let go—not holding on to hurts and becoming bitter. And Jesus said we are to keep on forgiving even with repeated sins, as God does with us (Luke 17:3-4 Luke 17:3-4 [3] Take heed to yourselves: If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. [4] And if he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to you, saying, I repent; you shall forgive him.
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; Matthew 18:21-22 Matthew 18:21-22 [21] Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? [22] Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
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). This does not mean everything can be smoothed over with every offender in complete reconciliation, and there is not space here to delve into specific circumstances, but we must strive to maintain a forgiving heart.

Jesus went on in Matthew 18:23-35 Matthew 18:23-35 [23] Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a certain king, which would take account of his servants. [24] And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him, which owed him ten thousand talents. [25] But for as much as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. [26] The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all. [27] Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. [28] But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that you owe. [29] And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and sought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you all. [30] And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. [31] So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. [32] Then his lord, after that he had called him, said to him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me: [33] Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you? [34] And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him. [35] So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
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to give a parable of a servant who owed a master a vast fortune but couldn’t pay—with the servant and his family to be sold as a consequence. The servant begged for time to pay, and the master amazingly had compassion, released him and forgave the debt.

But this servant then went and grabbed a fellow servant who owed him an amount that, while substantial, was nevertheless nothing compared to what he himself had been forgiven. This fellow servant begged for more time to pay, but the first servant threw him into debtor’s prison! When this was reported to the master, he was furious, saying, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:33 Matthew 18:33Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?
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). And the master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured to pay in suffering the vast amount he owed.

Note that this servant actually reincurred the debt he had been released from and now had to pay because of his own failure to be forgiving. This is a serious warning to Christians who have received God’s grace. As Jesus concluded, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:35 Matthew 18:35So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
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).

The apostle James would later write: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13 James 2:13For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy; and mercy rejoices against judgment.
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). We should not be focused on treating others as they deserve, for what would this mean for us? What do we deserve? Thankfully, as James then adds, “Mercy triumphs over judgment”—and so should it be in our treatment and forgiveness of others. The apostle Paul likewise said that we are to be “forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 Ephesians 4:32And be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.
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; compare Colossians 3:13 Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.
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).

Once more we see that grace does not come without critical obligations. As we have been forgiven, so are we to be people who extend forgiveness to others. If we ever got to the point where we ceased to be forgiving, God would also cease to forgive us. Let us never go down that path, but rather always remember God’s great undeserved merciful grace toward us and continue to forgive as we are forgiven.

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