A Forgiving Spirit

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A Forgiving Spirit

– Alistair Begg –

Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
Luke 11:4
At a quick glance, this request may sound like a quid pro quo—that our forgiveness of others somehow earns us the right to be forgiven. If we allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves, however, we will recognize that the opposite is true. God forgives only the penitent—those who feel godly sorrow and repent of their sins. And what is one of the chief evidences of being penitent? A forgiving spirit! In other words, when we forgive one another, we don’t earn forgiveness; we show that we have already been transformed by God’s forgiving grace.

Jesus taught that it is inconceivable that we who have been forgiven so much should refuse to forgive the debts of others against us (Matthew 18:21-35). Yet we’re still tempted to hold grudges, stay angry, to “forgive but not to forget.” D.L. Moody is said to have compared that idea to somebody who buries the hatchet but leaves the handle sticking out.

An unforgiving spirit is perhaps the greatest killer of genuine spiritual life. We shouldn’t claim to be seeking God if we actively harbor enmity in our hearts against our brothers and sisters. It will extinguish the flame of Christian joy and make it nearly impossible to benefit from the Bible’s teaching.

It is no surprise, then, that Jesus essentially says, What I’m saying about a forgiving spirit is a fundamental element of believing prayer. Check your life for it.

Are you bearing a grudge or replaying someone’s wronging of you in your mind? Is there someone you have failed to forgive? Reflect on the forgiveness you have received, and ask God to teach and enable you to forgive—for in your forgiveness of the sins of others against you, you reveal that you understand His grace and have been truly forgiven by Him.

How can Your pardon reach and bless
The unforgiving heart
That broods on wrongs and will not let
Old bitterness depart?
In blazing light Your cross reveals
The truth we dimly knew,
How small the debts men owe to us,
How great our debt to You.
Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
And bid resentment cease;
Then, reconciled to God and man,
Our lives will spread Your peace.

Rosamond Herklots, “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” (1969).
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