Forgiveness of sins is one primary reason Jesus came to save the descendants of Adam. Another reason was so the children of God could learn to walk in forgiveness towards one another. We freely forgive because we are freely forgiven. This is especially true in our homes for the potential for unforgiveness is huge. Consider Jesus’ answer and the example presented to His disciples after they asked Him to teach them how to pray.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:11-15
As Jesus explained to His disciples how to pray, these words must have been as shocking to them as they should be to us. “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” and “If you forgive your heavenly Father will also forgive, but if you do not forgive others…neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This is an amazing, often overlooked promise from the Lord Jesus Christ. How we forgive others has a direct relationship to how we are forgiven.
In Matthew 18:20-22 Peter was discussing how many times to forgive his brother and was feeling pretty generous when he suggested the unheard of amount of seven times. Jesus must have shaken him to the core when He explained that number needed to be greatly multiplied. In fact, in the rest of chapter 18, Jesus tells His shocked disciples a story about two men that were debtors. The first one owed a king an amount of money that was staggering and yet the king felt compassion and released the man from the debt. This recently released, forgiven man finds a man that owes him just a few coins and he begins to choke him and soon sends him off to jail, in spite of his pleas for mercy. The king is told what happened and severely disciplines this ungrateful wretch. While we may agree with the moral of the story, the punch line is just that, a punch. In verse 35 Jesus ties it all together with this sentence – So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Ouch. Jesus is the One that said it, and it is a promise.
In our daily interaction within our homes, conflict will arise. Feelings will be hurt, good intentions will be misunderstood and counted as something less than that, discipline will be misapplied, words will be stated harsher than they should have been, in short, wounds and offenses are bound to happen. What we do with them will have a tremendous impact on the spirit of our home.
If we are the offending party, we must seek forgiveness from the one we hurt. As parents, it is a very healthy action to ask for forgiveness from our children if we have overstepped, overstated, or overreacted. The Scripture states that fathers need to be careful not to provoke their children to anger (Ephesians 6:4) and we can do so by failing to ask for forgiveness from our children when we are in error. Pride is wrong regardless of our position and walking in humility is always the right response.
The same response of asking for forgiveness is true in husband wife relationships, children to parents and child to child. Children will need to be trained to think and act this way, and a helpful method to get this into the spirit of a home is for the parents to model it.
When this asking and receiving of forgiveness takes place, a home will navigate the difficult relational waters that naturally occur with people sharing the same space. When forgiveness is not taught or modeled, anger, resentment, and bitterness can take root. Hurts, wounds, and sins that are not confessed and cleansed by walking through forgiveness, fester and can turn into a mess relationally. The Scripture states it this way:
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; Hebrews 12:15
This verse states that we have a responsibility to make sure that we do not allow this bitter root to take up residence in our homes or us. If we fail here, this verse promises that trouble and defilement will follow. One sure way to avoid this root causing damage to our homes is to practice the giving and receiving of forgiveness quickly.
We did nothing to earn the forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ. We did not have to perform in a certain way, we did not have keep our noses clean for a set amount of time, or any other such condition that we sometimes place on others. We received forgiveness when we asked for it, and so should those that hurt us. Technically, we received forgiveness before we asked for it, even before we knew we were guilty and dead in our sins and trespasses, therefore we should forgive others quickly, and that includes those under our roof. Jesus even forgave those that crucified Him (and they certainly did not ask for forgiveness) and presented a pattern to follow. We do not need to debate the point of timing regarding when to forgive however, we simply need to give as we have received.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13
Relationship difficulties are common and will happen in every family. How will we deal with them? I would suggest we begin by rereading what Jesus told His disciples.