Matthew 6: 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Years back, I heard the most incredible story of forgiveness. I know that I can forgive people for what they do to me, but as a husband and father the biggest challenge I face is if someone does something to harm my wife or my children. For that reason, this story cut me to the heart.
On April 25, 2013 nineteen-year-old Richard “Richi” Knight III was stabbed in San Diego, California and a few days later he died. He was a standout basketball player and described by his friends and family members as an incredible personality, and someone willing to mentor others. He apparently had done nothing to deserve the stabbing and got mixed up in a gang-related dispute.
What is truly incredible about this story, however, is when Richi’s mom, Tamika Brown, took the stand. She spoke directly to the accused, who was aged 17 at the time of the stabbing, and said: “I’m about Jesus Christ, the giver and sustainer of life.” She went on to say: “You have an opportunity to change your life and choose what’s right. Only God knows why I’m not angry and why I don’t hate you.” Brown went on to sing a song to the accused. “So you think that you can’t make it through, just remember my God cares for you. Don’t give up; don’t give in. Today, make Jesus Christ your number 1 friend.”
Where does that ability to forgive come from? There is no doubt that Ms. Brown was being guided by supernatural intervention, however God’s assistance, his power to help you forgive, only comes with a decision to forgive. The scripture cited today in Matthew 6:15 is often a controversial one. Does it mean that if we don’t forgive others, we are damned? If we are a born-again believer this clearly can’t be the case because we have the assurance of salvation when we accept Christ in our hearts. We know he is our atoning sacrifice for all our sins (1 John 2:2), and that we were saved by grace and not works (Ephesians 2: 8-9). I believe this scripture is talking about the day-to-day forgiveness that we require to sustain a healthy relationship with God – this is about our relationship with God, not our salvation.
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus showed us how to pray and said: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12). What is the purpose of doing this? If God paid the price for our sins, once for all sins, then why would we be concerned about this? Matthew 6:15 should be a concern to any believer who chooses not to forgive because what we lose is intimacy. When we choose not to forgive, we sin against God. “If anyone then knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17). And in this place of sin, in this place of unforgiveness, we have no peace because that behavior conflicts with the God of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit who resides in us.
If this mother can forgive a young man who senselessly murdered her son, what is stopping you from forgiving those who have harmed you? And how can you expect God to forgive you if you are unwilling to forgive? Do like Tamika Brown clearly had to do, and declare: “God help me to forgive for I cannot do it in my own strength”, and then choose to forgive and experience the supernatural peace that God supplies.