THE IMPORTANCE OF FORGIVING OTHERS’ OFFENSES
After the Lord finished His teaching on prayer, He went on to say, "For if you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also; but if you do not forgive men their offenses, neither will your Father forgive your offenses." This is the Lord’s interpretation of verse 12, which says, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." It is easy for Christians to fail in the matter of forgiving others. If any unforgivingness exists among God’s children, all lessons, faith, and power will leak away. This is why the Lord is so strong and clear. This is a simple word. Yet God’s children need this simple word. "For if you forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also." It is so simple for us to receive the Father’s forgiveness. However, "if you do not forgive men their offenses, neither will your Father forgive your offenses." There is no such thing as careless forgiveness. This word is simple, but the fact is not that simple. If we forgive others with our mouth but do not forgive in our heart, it is not considered as forgiveness in the Father’s eyes. Forgiveness which is in the mouth only is vain and deceitful and does not count before the Father. We must forgive others’ offenses from the heart. Just as the disciples needed this word of the Lord, we also need the same word. If Christians are irreconcilable and if they do not forgive others from their heart, the church will run into problems. If we have no intention of behaving like the church and if we want to each take our own way as soon as we disagree with a single word, we do not need to forgive one another. But the Lord knows how crucial this matter is to us. Therefore, He reemphasized it at the end of the prayer. The Lord knows that the more we communicate and fellowship with one another, the more we need to forgive one another. He knows how crucial this matter is. Therefore, He had to turn our attention to it. If we do not forgive one another, it will be easy for us to give place to the devil. If we cannot forgive one another, we are not people of the kingdom, and we cannot do the work of the kingdom. No one who is unforgiving can be in the work of the kingdom, and no one who is unforgiving can be a person in the kingdom. Whenever we develop a problem with the brothers and sisters, we develop a problem with the Lord. We cannot pray to the Lord on the one hand and remain unforgiving on the other hand. Brothers and sisters, this is not an insignificant thing. We must pay attention to what the Lord pays attention to. We must forgive others their offenses.
Finally, we should note how much the Lord cares for the matter of prayer. There are only four verses that speak about almsgiving. In speaking about fasting, there are only three verses. But concerning prayer, He speaks in an emphatic way because prayer has to do with God. Prayer is the most important work of a Christian. The Lord shows us that there is reward for prayer because prayer is too great an issue; it is too great a matter. Those who are faithful to this work of prayer will receive a reward. Those who continue with this work in secret and who pay attention to this work will not be without reward. May God raise up those who would pray for God’s work.
Moreover, the prayer that the Lord taught always mentions "we" and "us." This is the form of address used by the church. This is a prayer that is filled with a sense of the Body. It is a tremendous prayer. I do not know how many saints there are on earth who can pray this prayer. Brothers and sisters, may we consecrate ourselves afresh for this great prayer. Countless saints throughout the ages have become a part of this great prayer. May the Lord be merciful to us that we also may have a share in this great prayer.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 22: The Assembly Life & The Prayer Ministry of the Church, Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)