Bible Insights

Is God’s Forgiveness Conditional?

Jesus wants us to fully forgive others so that we may be fully forgiven

In asking the simple question, “Is God’s forgiveness conditional?” the answer seems obvious: “No! God’s forgiveness is unconditional.”

I was taught that if I followed Jesus, he would forgive me. It was a fact. Forgiveness was unconditional. It made sense, and it comforted me.

However, Jesus’s instruction in today’s passage seems to question this assumption.

Jesus teaches about prayer. He says that when we pray, if we think of someone holding something against us, we must forgive them “so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25, NIV).

Does this mean that if we withhold forgiveness from others that God will withhold forgiveness from us?

I think so.

Recall the Lord’s Prayer. One phrase says, “Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12, NIV). This phrase flows from our mouths with ease.

On the surface these words offer us assurance of forgiveness. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus means by this simple expression. He seems to be saying that to the degree we forgive others, God will then forgive us.

To the degree we forgive others, God will forgive us. Click To Tweet

Stated another way, the extent to which we withhold forgiveness, will be the extent to which God withholds our forgiveness.

What a terrifying thought.

Between what Jesus instructs us through the Lord’s Prayer and what he teaches in today’s text, we get the real feeling that the degree to which we can receive God’s forgiveness hinges on the degree to which we extend forgiveness to others.

This is a sobering thought.

May we always forgive fully, so that we may be fully forgiven.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 11-13, and today’s post is on Mark 11:25.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

One reply on “Is God’s Forgiveness Conditional?”

I agree Peter. Thanks for posting this.

The more we forgive others in the spirit of do unto others as you would have them do unto you, forgiveness will be more fully available and made manifest. Withholding forgiveness to someone who speaks against the Holy Spirit who manifests God’s Love and forgiveness makes forgiveness impossible. See this quote from Mark’s Gospel.

“I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.” — Mark 3:28-29 (CEV)

However, consider the context and what else is being said. The scribes are saying Jesus has Beelzebul–the ruler of the demons and uses this ruler to cast out demons. Jesus then says “How can Satan cast out Satan? …if a house is divided…that house will not be able to stand…then his mother and his brothers came…and looking at those who sat around him…said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God…”

When we tick people off and demonize them we make them our enemies. Jesus called Simon a rock and then called him Satan. Loving our enemies is difficult when they are angry and hurt because we have taken them for granted, caused them to lose face, and simply failed to trust them. Wooing their trust and their friendship and cooperation may seem impossible, especially if we name call, then issue threats and ultimatums such as “if you speak against our mother, our sister, the woman I love…I will ” Thus the way I read scripture, I see Jesus making up with Simon…Simon forgiving Jesus and Jesus forgiving Simon for being a Cyrenaic, a sensual hedonist, someone who loved worldly pleasures.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

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