Q. I have two grown married sons with families of their own but I do not have a relationship with either of them. We are all born again Christians. When they were teenagers I sinned and they also sinned. I have sincerely told them I was sorry, and I really am sorry, but they will not forgive me and do not want me in their lives or to have any contact with my grandchildren. Therefore I have never seen my grandchildren. I am concerned about how this will affect them and their families in light of the commandment to honor your parents. Will this have an adverse affect on their lives and the lives of their children?
A. In addition to the commandment to honor our parents, God, who has forgiven us, expects us to forgive each other. Extending forgiveness to a fellow believer, no matter what the Earthly relationship, is not an option, and refusal to do so is a sin that can’t be forgiven.
In Matt. 6:9-13 Jesus gave an example of prayer. In it He said, “Forgive us our debts (sins) as we have also forgiven our debtors (those who sin against us). Then, to make sure we understand, He said,
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15).
Since the prayer begins with “Our Father in Heaven” it’s meant for believers who already have the forgiveness of God that brings salvation, so the failure to forgive each other will not revoke our salvation. But it will put a strain on our relationship with God that can cause an interruption to our fellowship with Him. We could miss out on blessings we might have otherwise received, and may be deprived of certain levels of spiritual protection.
In the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21-35) Jesus explained what this can mean. The servant who refused to forgive a fellow servant didn’t stop being a servant of his master but he was turned over to the jailer to be punished because of his refusal. Unfortunately, as in your case, innocent bystanders can also suffer from our failure to forgive.