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Forgiveness #4—Heavenly Warning

My heavenly Father will make every one of you pay your debts to him if you do not forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart. Matthew 18:35

The old saying goes, “You always hurt the one you love.” Scripture consistently confirms this truth. As God establishes the Israelite community he commands: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall surely love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Eternal [who rescued you from slavery].” It is the neighbor/family member who does us wrong, against whom we desire revenge, but for whom we must cultivate great affection. The road to this wonderful love climbs the mountain of forgiveness. To ascend it we must put the offense behind us so we can view our enemy as valuable in our eyes. Jesus’ warning (which occurs in other contexts as well) will help us up this mountain. Strengthening our desire to continue as a beneficiary of God’s merciful grace, and recalling our aversion to paying what we owe for our own sins—against both God and other people—will keep us from seeking happiness in the small satisfaction our own efforts at revenge will bring us. God’s forgiveness opens the door to all the joy we desire. Bitterness bars our way through that door by saying it isn’t enough.

Father, I look at what you did for me in the cross of Christ. Please help me see clearly how little I can gain from being bitter and how much I stand to lose by refusing to forgive with all my heart. Amen.


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