One of the many memorable scenes in the movie “Flywheel”, there’s one line that really stuck out to me as poignantly biblical. After the churchgoing used car salesman charges his pastor more than what’s reasonable for a junky old sedan, the pastor pauses to pray over him: “Please treat this salesman with the same kind of graciousness that he has treated me today.”
While somewhat humorous in the context of the movie, this concept of tit-for-tat is certainly seen in God’s disposition toward forgiving us. What if God forgave us only as thoroughly and as often as we forgive our own spouses, children, friends, and relatives?
Do You Pray Correctly?
In the example from “Flywheel,” you can be sure that the scamming salesman would not have echoed the pastor’s prayer. Like us, he would probably wish that God would treat him better than he treated those around him. Yet part of Christ’s model prayer includes these words: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). If we can’t pray that, then we’re clearly not forgiving others like we should.
Do You Take Scripture Seriously?
The concept of praying for the same kind of forgiveness that we dole out isn’t just a hypothetical consideration: God’s Word clearly states that we will be forgiven only as we forgive others. Matthew 6:14-15 states it pretty plainly: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
When we choose to cling to a past hurt or hold tightly to a well-deserved grudge, we aren’t just encouraging the bitter fruit of bitterness to spring up into our souls: We’re forfeiting our opportunity to be forgiven by God.
Do You Truly Value Forgiveness?
When I probe my own wicked heart (Jeremiah 17:9) on this topic, asking God to show me all of its ugly motivations, I realize that pride and self-deception is at the root of my reticence to forgive others—and a host of other sins. I just don’t see my own sin as all that bad. But it is. So is yours. When we take time to read and study and meditate on our wickedness and its consequences (Rom. 6:23), the gravity of our predicament weighs heavily on our hearts. But then as we consider the costly gift of Redemption (Rom. 8:32), our hearts should overflow with thankfulness as well as abundant graciousness and forgiveness to those around us.
I’d venture to say that the difference between the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair (Luke 7) was not as much a worse sinner than the disciples; instead, she realized her sinfulness more than they did theirs. As a parent of a teenager, perhaps your son or daughter’s sins against you seem more grievous than your own. Your anger and constant frustration and mental listing of their wrongs seems justified. Be careful: You will be forgiven only as you have forgiven them.