Read Matthew 6:14-15
14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NLT)
This is a challenging saying of Jesus for a couple of reasons. It seems that his forgiving us is dependent on our forgiving others. A good work of ours is the basis on which he offers us mercy. Which seems to go against the notion of grace as a free gift.
The other challenge is that we can misunderstand forgiveness and see it as an ‘everyone lives happily ever after’ scenario where everyone is reconciled to everyone else and we let bygones be bygones. On that understanding, many of us would conclude we are beyond God’s forgiveness. But forgiving others is always in the form of an offer, always having the sense of not seeking to repay one hurt with another. We cannot guarantee the offer is accepted and so cannot guarantee reconciliation and all being sweetness and light.
Perhaps what Jesus is suggesting is that those who have drunk deeply of his grace and mercy, who have received his forgiveness, will have a forgiving attitude to others. Those who know their need of mercy and have embraced its offer will be the ones who will pass on that mercy to others.
And we also note that a refusal to forgive is not the same as finding it hard to forgive. The person who stubbornly refuses to even begin the painful process of forgiveness might need to reconsider their own status with God. The person who is wanting to forgive yet finding it hard is only recognising their own fallible humanity. Failure to forgive is a failure to start the journey, not failure to always progress on the journey.