The late, Brennan Manning wrote this in an essay on Forgiveness in his book, Souvenirs of Solitude. “The proof par excellence of the Christian who has experienced God’s unbearable forgiveness and infinite patience is that he is able to be forgiving and patient with others.” This statement reflects what Jesus taught in the parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. There, Jesus shares a story of a servant who owed the Master 10,000 bags of gold and could not pay his debt. The Master forgives the debt after the servant pleads for mercy. Upon having his debt forgiven, the wicked servant finds the man who owes him only 100 silver coins. When that man cold not repay the debt, the servant who had just had his enormous debt canceled, threw the other man in prison. The Master finds out and angrily throws the wicked servant who showed no mercy, even after receiving mercy, into prison. Jesus makes the point that how we forgive others will determine how we will be treated.
The point of this story is obvious on the surface. If we, who have asked Jesus for forgiveness for our sins cannot or do not forgive others who have sinned against us, then we will not be forgiven.
But what about us forgiving ourselves, once we have received forgiveness from God. What does this lesson say about the lack of forgiving ourselves? I feel it says the same thing. If we can forgive others, but not ourselves, then we really have not grasped and embraced what forgiveness is all about. If we claim that Jesus has paid the price for our sins then we dare not wallow is the trough of self-pity and self-love by not forgiving ourselves. When we are unforgiving with ourselves it really is a form of self-centeredness. In prison, we might hide behind the idea that “our crimes are so huge that God could never forgive us.” This is reverse pride and needs to be killed. In essence, that statement reveals a prideful spirit that actually uses the severity and heinousness of our crime to puff us up. We have shifted the focus and center of our lives away from God and onto ourselves. This is idolatry, pure and simple and must be confessed and abandoned so that we will be able to move out and use our freedom that comes with God’s forgiveness, to hear the cries of His hurting people and help others.