From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 13 – Some common errors and areas of confusion about what forgiveness is and how, and why, we are to do it
I believe that God has two main reasons for requiring us to forgive others, i.e. at least in the narrow, basic sense, before He will forgive us. They are as follows:
a) For us to judge and punish people ourselves is to usurp the role of Jesus, which is presumptuous. If you think God is being overly sensitive about that, just imagine the reaction you would get from one of the judges at The Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand if you went into his court room and sat down in his chair. Would you accuse him of being over-sensitive if he sent for the ushers and had you thrown out?
b) If we won’t forgive others and insist instead on judging them, and even punishing and taking vengeance against them, ourselves, then it shows that we haven’t properly grasped the fact that we too are sinful. We are each guilty of the same, or similar, things as that wrongdoer whom we are refusing to forgive. If we won’t, or can’t, see that then it may mean that our own repentance is insincere or inadequate. How can we, in our own sinful state as wrongdoers, cry out to God for mercy and forgiveness if we haven’t understood that the person who has wronged us is in an identical situation to our own?
At the very least, an unwillingness to forgive others may be evidence that you have not genuinely grasped the extent of your own sinfulness and your own need for repentance. Conversely, a genuine willingness to forgive others is powerful evidence that you have. Therefore, the fact that you have an ongoing attitude of unforgiveness and bitterness towards others calls into question the adequacy, and even the genuineness, of your own faith and repentance.
God is looking for truth and sincerity. Therefore it follows that this test of our genuineness, i.e. the question of whether we are willing to forgive others, will be very significant to Him. Accordingly, let’s make sure we pass this test. Let’s forgive others, at least in the basic, narrow sense. Ideally, let’s try to go farther than that, if we can, and if it is appropriate. Then, without any hypocrisy, we can ask God to do the same for us.