Difficulty in forgiving others lies primarily in the failure to realize the extent of our own reception of pardon from the Lord.
Recall the parable in Matthew 18 of the servant whose king forgave him a debt equivalent to millions, if not billions of dollars according to modern monetary values. This same servant, however, would not forgive his own debtor the most negligible amount. Torment resulted, not of the debtor, but of the forgiven servant who would not forgive.
“Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him” (Matthew 18:32-34).
The realized joy and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot coexist in a spiritual and moral environment of bitterness and vengeance. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:11). If we have difficulty in experiencing the tranquility of heart so often promised in Scripture, we may well have allowed a place therein for the bitter waters of unforgiveness to collect and stagnate. Ignorance and pride excavate such an unhappy reservoir of merciless hardness wherein pools of grace should exist as flowing fountains of Christ’s forgiving love. We have forgotten, or perhaps have never known the extent of our own reception of pardon, thus keeping the sins of others against us paramount in our minds. Inner torment rather than peace ensues, and we become a foul pond rather than a wellspring of joy.
Wonderfully, forgiveness for being unforgiving is included in the atoning grace of the Lord Jesus. His mercy paid our debt of mercilessness, and in this moment, we can know pardon for any failure to have given pardon. Peace awaits, and then the blessed path of grace wherein love received becomes love distributed. Indeed, we shall never more know our Lord than in those times we respond to His heart of mercy as it leads us to freely forgive just as we have been freely forgiven. Mercy is a blessed thing, both in the receiving, and far more, in the giving. Torment flies when mercy arrives. Yes, in this moment, foul ponds can be drained, their soil purified, and replaced by the fresh, clean, and life-giving Water of life. Remembering how much for which we have been forgiven by God, and how relatively small are the offences of other against us, will go far in ensuring that the promise of our Lord becomes personally realized and then conveyed…
“He that believeth on Me, as the Scriptures hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”