The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of forgiveness. No one enters in who does not need the forgiveness of sin, and no one remains who does not constantly live in God's forgiving grace.
But no one can live in the forgiveness of God without himself having a forgiving spirit.
Jesus spoke earnest words concerning this to His disciples after He had taught them the Lord's Prayer. He said, "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matt. 6:15.
But if is an important if.
It is often hard to forgive. Especially when someone has sinned against us that we least expected it from. Then it may sometimes be hard to forgive, then bitter feelings may take possession of us, and our nature is such that it finds it hard to forgive some who have sinned against us.
We Christians, too, have this nature; all this shows how deep are the roots of sin in us.
But can a Christian live in the forgiveness of God and he himself have an unforgiving spirit? No, he can not do that.
He must either overcome this evil or lose the life in God. Here is an either--or.
Jesus' definite "if" shows this.
The one who himself will not forgive others, loses his own forgiveness with God.
Do you hear this you who are irritated over others' sins against you, and who coddle and excuse your own bitter spirit?
But how are you to find a way and a power to forgive?
Jesus shows us a way here also.
Let us notice two things:
First, read the fifth petition, ''Forgive us our trespasses . . .'' We have trespasses, you have trespasses, therefore we need forgiveness. Perhaps your sin is not of the same kind as his and hers who sinned against you, but is your sin therefore less sinful?
God has been very good toward you, without you meriting it. He has poured much grace upon you.
Let your soul so live in this grace that you will be happy, and gladly add this to the fifth petition: As we forgive those who trespass against us, as I also forgive and forget. The one who lives in a realization of his own sin, will not be hard toward others.
Second, pray for the one who has sinned against you. He or she needs your prayer.
Mention them by name in your secret chamber. Jesus taught us an intercessory prayer in the Lord's Prayer--"Forgive us our trespasses--our, mine, his and hers. And He said: "Pray for those who persecute you."
You are not going to continue very long in intercessory prayer before the mild spirit of forgiveness will flow into your soul.
And bitterness and enmity shall change to love.
Peder Abrahamson Stenhovden, the son of a sheriff, was awakened to life in God during a visit by Hauge, when he was 23 years old. He became an honor to God in his Christian life and a blessing to his fellowmen. He died when about 60 years old. On his death-bed Peder Stenhovden became very much distressed on account of a man who had sinned against him. He had forgiven him but he could not make himself love him. This troubled him. One of his brethren who visited him was Anders Redal. He said: "You must pray God that you may love him; if you do not love him, you must have something against him."
This brotherly advice led Peder Stenhovden into earnest prayer for love and he won victory. The tender spirit of love flowed into his heart. He died on the 25th of February, 1838, a hundred years ago.
To forgive and to love--this spiritual attitude Jesus creates in a humble heart.
Seek this spirit.
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