Matthew 6:15- but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
This verse has always troubled me because it sounds too much like our forgiveness is based on our ability to forgive and not God’s. It seems too ungracious, too much like quid pro quo, too judgmental, too threatening, from a God who is usually described as overflowing with love and kindness. But here it is and there is no doubt what it says. I deal with it in two ways. First, it is humbling. Like a lot of other things in the bible, forgiveness is not something that most of us can just will into being. If we have significant hurt and anger most of us cannot just wish it away even if on some level we want to. This verse leads us to a place where we need the divine work of God in our lives and maybe the harshness of the language is just a slap upside the head so that we will know this. Another way I have tried to understand this is on the experiential level. God may forgive us but if we don’t forgive others we can’t appropriate that forgiveness for ourselves in a way that we can actually feel it or trust in it or have it dwell in us. I think I’m pushing the text too far in this interpretation but something about it rings true and I let it linger as a possibility. The lesson is very clear however. God wants us to forgive others. We need to forgive others. Whom do you need to forgive this week?