‘Forgive One Another Freely’
DO YOU believe that God has forgiven your sins? In the United States, it seems that most adults do. Dr. Loren Toussaint, lead author of a study conducted at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, reports that of 1,423 Americans polled, about 80 percent of the adults over 45 years of age said that God has forgiven them of their sins.
It is interesting, though, that only 57 percent of those polled said that they extended forgiveness to others. That statistic reminds us of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14, 15) Yes, God’s forgiveness of our sins is conditional, in part, on our readiness to forgive others.
The apostle Paul reminded Christians in Colossae of this principle. He urged them: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” (Colossians 3:13) True, this is not always easy to do. For example, when you are on the receiving end of thoughtless or unkind words, it can be hard to let them pass.
Still, the benefits of extending forgiveness are many. Dr. David R. Williams, a sociologist, said regarding his research: “We found a particularly strong relationship between forgiveness of others and mental health among middle-aged and older Americans.” That is in harmony with the words of wise King Solomon, who some 3,000 years ago wrote: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.” (Proverbs 14:30) Since a forgiving spirit promotes good relations with God and with our neighbor, we have good reason to be disposed to forgive one another freely from the heart.