Matthew 6: 14-16; “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. NLT
In my experience as a pastor, I have seen lots of confusion about these two verses. This isn’t a complete explanation but a beginning of an explanation that may help others to clarify what Jesus is saying.
I think what these two verses are demonstrating is the relationship between prayer and action being further developed from verse 12. My thought is Jesus is not claiming God’s unwillingness to forgive disobedient sinners but demonstrating the sinner’s lack of capacity to have the kind of forgiveness the God uses, complete forgiveness. Think about it like this; how can you not be a forgiving person who has received forgiveness from God, Whom deliberately and habitually forgives us. So, what right do we have towards those (vs. 12 debtors, the Greek word means a conscious, deliberate violation of what is right) to refuse forgiveness, regardless if they ask or may not ask (forgiveness) when the Lord constantly forgives our shortcomings and sins.
Where much of the confusion lays is in verse 15, “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Not being forgiven for your sins…is not referencing our initial entrance into the kingdom of God, our path to heaven. But referencing our refusal to appropriate Divine forgiveness as Jesus has talked about in the Lord’s Prayer. A forgiveness that doesn’t reference our own preferences, positions, or prejudice, but comes from the Divine well of Mercy, and Grace that the Father used in forgiving us. When we refuse forgiveness towards others, we close ourselves off to forgiveness from God. We’ve all have experienced this. How? One example; You’re angry at someone, they have offended you, you need to forgive them, but don’t. Romans 12:3…”Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us .” An honest evaluation of yourselves. Take a good look at yourself, see if you are approaching forgiveness without thought of the consequences it has for you. That’s what Jesus did.
Romans 12:17 says; “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.” But yet this is the natural path we take, revenge, withholding forgiveness.
Ephesians 4:26; “ And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” This verse is quoting Psalms 4:4; “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude 5 Offer sacrifices in the right spirit and trust the Lord.
Psalms 4:5 sums up how to implement Matthew 6:14-15, “trust the Lord.” Our mistrust of the Lord is reflected in our resistants to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us, Ephesians 4:32. Lack of forgiveness exposes our lack of faith that God will take what others meant for harm and use it for His good, Genesis 50:20. Our refusal to forgive shows the innermost character of resentment, hurt, disappointment, bitterness, and refusal to bow our knee at the altar of God’s forgiveness, keeping ourselves on the throne of self.