But somehow they think they are perfect. They have never done anything hurtful to anyone, and would be horrified if you started making your own laundry list against them! They must think that, or surely they would be more merciful, wouldn’t they?
You see, grudge-holding is the worst kind of self-centeredness. It says, “My hurts count more than yours.” It infers, “I have never done anything as bad as this to you.” And then it rationalizes, “What you did to me is so bad, it does not have to be forgiven.”
If you said that to a grudge-holder, he would be horrified, especially if he claimed to be a Christian. Unfortunately, that is another aspect of this sin—it keeps you from seeing yourself as you really are. We become so blinded by our “injured innocence” that we cannot see the truth--no one is innocent; we all mess up once in awhile. It is bad when this sort of selfishness causes animosity between neighbors, sad when it causes rifts in families, and tragic when it causes a lack of unity in the family of God.
Jesus said I cannot be forgiven if I don’t forgive. Forgiveness means I don’t spread it around, I don’t let fester in my mind, I don’t bring it up again at any opportunity, ever. Forgiveness means I understand that I have done my fair share of hurts to others, whether intentional or not, and since I hope they will not hold them against me, I certainly won’t hold things against them. That is exactly what Peter meant when he said, Love covers a multitude of sins, 1 Peter 4:8. I think Peter uses that word “sin” in an ironic way. We cannot cover real sins against God, and are not supposed to, but in our self-centeredness, we place what amounts to minimal slights in the same category as real sin. And Peter also makes it plain that no matter what I say about the matter, if I do not forgive and I show that lack of mercy by my constant grudge-holding, I do not love.
Forgiveness means having enough humility to recognize that no one has done to me anything remotely similar to what I have done to the Lord. Holding grudges means the opposite—I have made my feelings just as important as Christ’s, therefore I am just as important as He is—just as important as God.
Didn’t they used to stone people for that?
(The money figures in the following passage come from Lenski’s commentary on Matthew. Any math errors are mine.)
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven like a certain king who made a reckoning of his servants…One was brought to him that owed him [about 60,000,000 days’ pay]....The servant therefore fell down and said, Lord have patience with me and I will pay all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt. But the servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him [about 100 days’ pay]...and said, Pay what you owe…Then the Lord called unto him and said, You wicked servant, I forgave you all your debt…Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you? And the lord was wroth and delivered him to the tormentors…So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you if you forgive not your brother from the heart. Matt 18:21-35