Recently on Face Book, the C. S. Lewis Society of California posted this quote from C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness:
"We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that he will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us… No part of His teaching is clearer: and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn't say that we are to forgive other people's sins provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don't, we shall be forgiven none of our own." C.S. Lewis, "On Forgiveness," Fern-seeds and Elephants.
As a result of this post, many people commented. Here are just a few of the comments:
"We are forgiven, period!"
"…someone at CS Lewis society of CAL needs to go back and recheck their Bible. As an educational suggestion, do not use any Bible more modern than the KJV."
"Come on people. Don't get so mad at Jesus! C.S. is just affirming his teaching. Matthew 6:13-14 could not be clearer. And it is as clear in your KJV."
"Forgiving doesn't have to mean forgetting, particularly in the case of abuse. But you've gotta let the hate go."
"Forgiveness is not dependent on us. It is a free gift. "For by GRACE you are saved, it is a gift from God and not of works, lest anyone should boast."
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. It is a simultaneous action."
"The forgiven are forgivers"
I found it quite interesting and a little disturbing that people here are in one of two camps about how the Bible reads on our forgiving others.
So what do we believe?
To find out what the Bible actually says about forgiving others, let's first turn to Matthew 6:9-15
9 Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,[a]
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,[b]
but rescue us from the evil one.[c]
14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Jesus could have chosen any part of what we call The Lord's prayer to explain a bit more, why do you suppose he chose to explain the forgiveness aspect of this prayer?
Let's look at another instance where Jesus teaches us about forgiving others:
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.[c] 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.[d] He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters[e] from your heart.”
In this parable, Jesus is explaining the concept of forgiving others more clearly than he did with the Lord's Prayer, but he's saying basically the same thing. I have to admit I struggle with this myself. I take comfort, however, that when Jesus tells us how many times we must forgive, he says seventy times seven. What he is telling me is that we need to forgive. If we forgive on one day, and then (as often happens) the next day we have angry thoughts again, we are to forgive again. Every time we struggle with forgiving someone for hurting us, we are to forgive that person again.
Now, imagine you have died and are standing before the throne of God. You stand before him and he's saying,
"My child, in your life you believed in me and trusted in me to save you from your sins and you did many good works in my name. But you didn't forgive others and you held grudges. I cannot let you into my kingdom."
Do you think anyone would ever hear God say this?
21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
In John 14: 23-24 Jesus says,
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
When Jesus spoke to the disciples and spent the three years prior to his crucifixion, he knew his purpose was to die for the sins of all people. The forgiveness he offers is there for all of us; it's already in place before we accept him. He cried out on the cross "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing." Those people didn't ask Jesus to forgive them, they were taunting him as he cried out these words.
To be a believer in Jesus, one must follow his words, the words he spoke in teaching before he died. After he rose he never said, "Oh, and all that I said before I was crucified, don't worry about it; just forget I ever said it."
No, Jesus said, And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25
But make no mistake; there's nothing easy about forgiving others. You can't do it alone, without the Lord helping you. The Lord never promised the Christian walk would be easy; but he did promise that he would be with us, always.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 16-20
If anyone reading this has trouble with this concept, I would suggest that person ask the Lord to help them see what His truth is. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the Lord to show you His truth, read God's Word and listen for what the Holy Spirit wants to tell you. James promises if we ask God for wisdom He will give it.
"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind." James 1:5-6