Abraham Lincoln was burdened after the American Civil war and was wondering how he could make peace and reconciliation.
In the White House he was speaking sympathetically about the South. A person infuriated by this notion, interrupted and said;
“How dare you speak so kindly of our enemy, we should be destroying them”.
Abraham Lincoln thought for a while and replied;
“Madam, do I not destroy my enemy when I turn them into my friends”.
Jesus qualifies the enemy as someone who persecutes us. Abraham Lincoln understood the God application of loving your enemy and praying for them (Matthew 5:44).
We see this same principle flowing into our prayer in Matthew 6:12; forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. The assumption in this prayer is that we are not squeaky clean, and therefore need to remain in a mode of forgiveness. The “Achilles heel” for Christians is that we ignore the forgiveness offered by Christ, and settle for resentment and bitterness.
As we read on in Matthew 6:14,15 – we see that as we forgive others, God will forgive us, but if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
In other words we are putting ourselves at risk when we choose not to forgive. The reality is that every person, at some stage, will get hurt or betrayed and comes face to face with bitterness verses forgiveness. Jesus gives us clues how bitterness affects us. Our speech starts to become cynical and no longer uplifting; Matthew 15: what comes out his mouth makes him unclean. Secondly, our eyes stop shining;
Mt 6:22 the eye is the lamp of the body. If the eyes are good the whole body will be full of light.
Forgiveness is available through Christ, but many refuse his offer. We tend to bask in the title of being a “Christian” but I come across far too many unforgiving “Christians”.
Perhaps our title should be “forgivers”.
Don’t waste any more time on bitterness and resentment, but come to the cross afresh and receive the payment Christ suffered with his life, yet free for us. When communion is served it is a time for us to examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28), and set things in the right order, receiving His forgiveness and forgiving others.