“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Yikes! The words of Jesus at the end of today’s reading devastate my old sinful and self-righteous self. I know it is the same for you. We shouldn’t be surprised that we will need to forgive others and receive forgiveness, too. Jesus embedded this truth in the prayer He gave for us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
As much as I’d like to soften Jesus’ words about the consequences of withholding forgiveness from a fellow sinner, I can’t. The words say what they say. Forgiveness between fellow believers in Jesus isn’t an optional thing. It will be a necessary reality as long as we live in close proximity to fellow sinners. It may be that the hurts caused by sins done against us may take years to heal and we may need frequent confessions and Absolutions.
The powerful words of Jesus move us to recognize that our life is sustained by the forgiveness that flows from Him to us in the word of Absolution, the remembrance of our Baptism, the preaching of the Gospel and our reception of the Holy Supper. Our debt of sin has been released in the flood of Jesus’ blood. This alone is the reason we can forgive those who have sinned against us. We can forgive because God, in Christ, has forgiven us. So we are then called to forgive one another unconditionally and always. To refuse to forgive puts you in the position of the pitiless servant in Jesus’ parable. To persistently refuse to forgive is to be unjust and wicked. It is to live in denial of the forgiveness given to you in Jesus.
That is not how it shall be with you. Repent of your desire to withhold forgiveness to the brother or sister who desires it (or even if he doesn’t). Receive forgiveness from Jesus, the forgiveness that He won at the Cross and delivers to you by Word and Sacrament. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.