Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
One of the more challenging things to do, as a person, is forgive. It is a tightrope walk of choosing to never dwell upon the thing that was done, but never forgetting the lessons the wrong suffered taught me; of never speaking of the wrong to anyone else, but also looking to warn others against danger; of not allowing the past wrong to infect the present relationship with its poison, but also not repeating the same mistakes that led to the wrong in the past.
Jesus, however, links my forgiveness of others with my receipt of forgiveness. He says forgive … so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. Several places, I am told that I cannot receive forgiveness if I do not forgive. Is this some sort of paradox, that God would withhold forgiveness merely because I fail to walk that tightrope? I think not.
The impression with which I am left on reading this is a reminder that what I have against anyone is nothing when compared to what God has against me. Jesus’ language makes this clear to me. He says that the things I need to forgive are anything [I have] against anyone. He does not use the same language when He speaks of what God must forgive me. On the contrary, He says that the Father will forgive [me my] transgressions. The language is extremely suggestive. What I need to forgive others is what I have against them, but what God must forgive me is my transgressions. What I must forgive others for, they may have done unintentionally; maybe not even realizing that I was offended or even present. What God must forgive is my deliberate disobedience and stepping over known boundaries. The required forgiveness is light years apart.
As I pray, let me release those things I am holding against people, who have been created in God’s image, so that I might more clearly see through to my Father in Heaven and entreat His forgiveness for myself. I may find (and often do) that the things I have against others were not what I thought them. Sometimes (and this hurts to recall) the thing I thought was meant to slight me was part of a larger attempt to bless me. I simply do not know what people’s intentions are. Let me release the things I hold against others. Let me, instead, liberally apply forgiveness to them.