“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”
was the cry of Christ toward those who crucified Him. If forgiveness was the heart cry of our saviour even as He was hanging upon the cross, how much more should we be willing to forgive those who persecute us? For many of us right now, it is a season of old wounds coming to the surface; as the Lord wants to bring healing in those areas of our soul. With old wounds surfacing often comes the need to forgive and Jesus expressly tells us that for us to be forgiven, we must first forgive (Matthew 6:14-15).
The early church was all in one mind concerning forgiveness. Cyprian, third century early church father wrote on the Lord’s Prayer:
We shall be pardoned for our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, knowing that we cannot obtain pardon for our sins unless we give equal pardon to those who sin against us. In this regard he says in another place: “With what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you.” And the servant who, after his every offense has been forgiven by the Lord, is unwilling to forgive his fellow servant shall be sent to prison. Because he was unwilling to pardon his fellow servant, he forfeited what the Lord had pardoned him. (1)
Here, Cyprian explains that forgiveness is conditional. We can only be forgiven by God if we forgive others. The same measure we forgive, is the same measure we will be forgiven. We are all still sinners needing the forgiveness of God. So, if we expect that pardon to be granted to us, we must also afford that same forgiveness to others. Paul, to the faithful saints in Colossae exhorted them to forgive- a mark of those who were truly raised with Christ:
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Colossians 3:12-13)
Origen, second–third century early church father wrote the following, confirming Paul’s position:
“Therefore I say unto you the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, who wished to make a reckoning with his own servants.” (Mat 18:23) The general conception of the parable is to teach us that we should be inclined to forgive the sins committed against us by those who have wronged us, and especially if after the wrongdoing he who has done it supplicates him who has been wronged, asking forgiveness for the sins which he has committed against him. And this the parable wishes to teach us by representing that even when forgiveness has been granted by God to us of the sins in respect of which we have received remission, exaction will be demanded even after the remission, unless we forgive the sins of those who have wronged us, so that there is no longer left in us the least remembrance of the wrong that was done, but the whole heart, assisted by the spirit of forgetfulness of wrongs, which is no common virtue, forgives him who has wronged us those things which have been wickedly done against any of us by him, even treacherously. (2)
As if it was not already clear enough from what we have already discussed, Origen expounds that unless we forgive those that have wronged us, even the forgiveness God already bestowed upon us will be rendered null and void. Our sins will no longer be removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Origen goes on to write that even the remembrance of the wrong that was done to us needs to be completely removed from our hearts, being assisted by the Spirit of forgetfulness of wrongdoing.
With what the Lord is bringing up in His saints right now, forgiveness is a very timely message. Understanding that it is a requirement of our salvation to forgive those who have hurt us, we cannot afford to hold onto unforgiveness. There is no doubt that we have all struggled to forgive, and maybe some of us are in that place right now, but we do not have to do it alone and if we are all very honest with ourselves, we really cannot forgive on our own accord. We must cry out to the Lord for a heart to forgive and petition Him to release to us His Spirit of forgetfulness of wrongdoing, so that the forgiveness can be complete in our hearts. To God be all the glory. Amen.
1. Cyprian, The Treatises of Cyprian, Treatise IV – On the Lord’s Prayer, Ch 22 [Emphasis added]
2. Origen, Gospel of Matthew, Book 14, Pt 6 [Emphasis added]
All scripture references from The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010.