Did Jesus Teach Conditional Forgiveness?

Daily Devotional: Day 129

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26, NKJV).

Today’s Scripture is a puzzle to many a Christian. Did Jesus really mean what He said? We received forgiveness for all our sins during our new birth, right? So, do Jesus’ words apply to us? If I stand in God’s presence to pray, and for some reason I don’t forgive those who have offended me, is Jesus saying God will not forgive me? Is Jesus saying that God’s forgiveness is conditional? Wait, I thought God’s love was unconditional.

Some find today’s Scripture text somewhat ‘incompatible’ with the grace of the New Covenant; therefore, they either ignore it or explain it away. They basically believe that Christians are exempt from what Jesus is saying. But should Christians think the above Scripture doesn’t apply to them?

To arrive at a sound conclusion, let us look at the Scripture one more time. Notice that there is no ambiguity in what Jesus is saying. He is not telling a parable; nor is He using a figure of speech. He does not insert an exemption clause that says, “What I am teaching applies to everyone, except Christians.” His words are as plain and direct as they can get. The hard truth is this: Jesus is teaching that the Father’s forgiveness is conditional. If you forgive, you will be forgiven. If you refuse to forgive others their trespasses, the Father, being a God of justice, will not forgive you, either. I know this goes against much of what we’ve been told in churches, but we do not have the liberty to overrule Jesus’ teaching. He meant exactly what He said, so we will do well to take Him seriously.

In fact, if there is a group of people to whom Jesus’ words apply the most, it is us Christians. Why? Because we have been forgiven much; we have received grace upon grace (cf. John 1:16); we have been justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (cf. Romans 3:23-24). Therefore, we, of all the people in the world, have no excuse to hold anything against someone.

Anyone who is born again will have no issue whatsoever with Jesus’ statement. When you are born of God, forgiving people from your heart comes natural to you. You forgive without even thinking much about it. Your heart is always free from harboring  grudge, bitterness and unforgiveness. The secret is the love of God which has been shed abroad in our hearts (cf. Romans 5:5). With this kind of divine love in your heart, there is no offense you cannot forgive; and there is no bitterness or hurt you cannot overcome. Forgiveness is simpler than we think. Let us be like our Father in heaven: merciful and forgiving.

May the Lord let His face shine upon you today! Amen.

For further study: Matthew 18:21-35

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