Q. I read your articles online constantly. I’ve seen a number on forgiveness, and thought I had a good grasp of what the Bible teaches about it. I’m confused with what I’m hearing lately on television. It’s more than one source saying the same thing: “If you don’t forgive, then God won’t forgive you.” I ignored it at first, thinking it was a tie-in to a Prosperity Gospel marketing ploy, but now it has me wondering if I’ve missed something in my studies. Is there any scriptural basis to this statement? I can’t believe there is as I believe in OSAS, so my sins (including not forgiving someone) are forgiven, as I pray constantly that God would give me the ability to forgive the one who wronged me. Please let me know if I’ve missed something.
A. In Matt. 6:14-15 Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
This statement was made in the context of His teaching on the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) which only believers can pray , so this is not a salvation issue. In the parable of the unmerciful servant He made the same point (Matt. 18:23-35) and again is was a matter between believers.
Here’s the point. Since God has forgiven us for everything, He expects believers to forgive each other for the little things that come between us. Failure to do so is a sin that puts a strain on our relationship with God. It can’t cost us our salvation, but it can deprive us of blessings we may have otherwise received. As soon as we forgive the person who wronged us we’ll be restored.
It’s important to note that the other person’s reaction is irrelevant. We’re expected to forgive them regardless of whether they’ve asked us to or even admit any wrongdoing. All that’s between them and the Lord.