unforgiveness = unforgiven

Everyone agrees on grace and that forgiveness is wonderful idea!  Isn’t it awesome of God to give us a way back to Him; all we need to do is ask, and BOOM!  Its done.  Actually, that BOOM comes before we even ask.  The forgiveness is already there, just waiting for us.

However, forgiveness is a two-edged sword; it cuts both ways … or it doesn’t cut at all.  On one side we’ve got the forgiveness that we’ve received through God’s mercy.  Then on the other side we’ve got the forgiveness that we give out through our mercy to others.  Paul links this duality for us in Ephesians 4, … forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.  Paul is following what Jesus taught on forgiveness, that our own is directly affected by the measure of it, that we give out, … forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven … (Matt 6).

Take note of the word “as”,  this is a warning to us.  Ok now, watch … the word ‘as’ is a conditional  particle, it connects words and terms in a way so that they are dependant on each other.  Another way to say what Jesus said in the Lord’s prayer would be:

-Father … forgive me my debts provided that I have forgiven debts against me

-Father … forgive me my sins the same way that I have forgiven those who sin against me

Jesus meant for these to be connected to each other and all through scripture you can see this phenomenon at work; its called sowing and reaping.  You don’t get to harvest forgiveness if you’ve sown unforgiveness, this would defy one of God’s most basic precepts.  If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.

Clearly, God is telling us that it must be balanced.  He will continue to do His part provided that we do ours.

“But I thought God’s forgiveness was free,” you might say.  Some have accused my view as being a “works” dynamic and not one of grace.  And I agree.  It is ‘work’.  But don’t you think it was work for God to send His only Son to earth for the sole reason for Him to die for our forgiveness.  And don’t you think it was work for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when He had to choose to drink from the cup that His Father offered … for our forgiveness.  No, I don’t think forgiveness is ‘free’ at all … I believe it cost God everything; and it will cost us too.  To get a better picture of just how much ‘work’ it was for Jesus, read Luke 22:44; and to really drive it home for you, watch The Passion; then, see if grace is still …. Free.  You see, grace IS free, to receive; but to give it, well, that takes us to a new level of cost, doesn’t it.

If we are followers of His way then we should expect the same fight for faith that He experienced.

In marriage its no different, we will have to fight just as hard to forgive and be merciful, perhaps even more (1 Cor 7).   Does Jesus mean to ‘exclude’ husbands who need forgiveness?  He never speaks of forgiveness in the relationship of marriage does He?  I think the reason is that all the parameters and precepts that He taught are inclusive of each other already.  Yes we are husband and wife but we are also brother and sister in the same family.  We are Sons and Daughters of God the Father;  Jesus died for the both of us; and the same Holy Spirit indwells each of us.  Therefore, when Jesus said, So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offences, (Matt 18) He means for it to include, not exclude, the brother that is your husband.

Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

~ Corry ten Boom ~



  1. I will be writing from a protestant Christian viewpoint here and not addressing the Catholic concept of works.

    Christians are given gifts or fruits of the Spirit to aid us in fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. The results of our efforts from the use of those fruits of the Spirit are works that are pleasing to God. Our salvation is dependent on neither receiving nor using those spiritual gifts. The gifts have more to do with our sanctification, our being set aside for the purpose God intended for us. Sadly, there sadly are Christians who do nothing with their gifts, but they still will remain in a state of justification through Christ.

    God freely gives us forgiveness if we meet certain conditions:

    “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Dying in Christ and being born anew is not a work of our righteousness but a work of God. We are merely complying with a condition for forgiveness of our sins.

    For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 Forgiving others is also a condition of salvation in that if God cannot forgive us our sins, we are sin incarnate and cannot be in his presence. Again, we are complying with a condition for forgiveness of our sins.

    Meeting conditions is not the same as performing works. It is expected of us a Christians to do good works that bear fruit for the glory of God. We are emulating a Christ-like life in so doing. If we truly desire fellowship with God and Christ, we will freely desire to do those works, but not out of obligation to insure our salvation. Grace is given freely to us if we meet the conditions to receive it. It is free to us because Christ already paid the price of obtaining it for us. Once we were justified through Christ, there was no other price to be paid. If any “work” be associated with our salvation and forgiveness by grace, it is Christ’s alone on the cross.

  2. Lots of people struggle with this concept of grace/forgiveness/salvation/works, it seems you’ve got a great handle on it, good for you. It took me many years of grappling with it to finally get where God was taking me.

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