For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive sins.-Matthew 6:14-15
What is Jesus saying here? Is he saying that God will only forgive you if you forgive others? No, but what he is saying is that the mark of a true believer is their willingness to share the same love and forgiveness that they have received with others. In Matthew 18 Peter asks Jesus this question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times.”(Matthew 18:21). Jesus answered Peter in this way, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”(Matthew 18:22). What Jesus is telling Peter is that he should not just forgive those who wrong us a handful of times and then stop, but we are to keep on forgiving them every time they wrong us. Jesus then tells this great story to illustrate his point.
Starting Matthew 18:23 and going through Matthew 18:35 Jesus tells Peter and his disciples a story about a man who owed someone millions of dollars. And how when the debt was called and the man wasn’t able to pay and was facing the loss of everything that he owned, the person to whom the debt was owed forgave the debtor his debts when he asked for forgiveness. Matthew 18:26-27 says the person owed the debts response was this, “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘ and I will pay back everything.’ The servants master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.” So you see this man has just had a great debt forgiven just because he asked for forgiveness. The rest of the story deals with this man’s response to someone who owed a very small debt.
Immediately after this man has had this great debt forgiven he goes out and finds a person he owes him a few thousand dollars. He then demands that this person pay him back this money right now. This person does the same thing that he just did when he was called before the person that he owed millions of dollars to and that is he asked for forgiveness. But instead of showing forgiveness to his fellow debtor he refuses and throws this person into prison until the debt could be paid. This man’s actions are seen by other people and they are reported back to the person who forgave him the large debt. This man is then called before the person who forgave his large debt and called out for his actions and suffers the consequences of his actions. (Matthew 18:28-34)
The point that Jesus is trying to make in the story in Matthew 18 and in his few short words in Matthew 6 is not that God won’t forgive you unless you forgive others. Rather the point he is trying to make is that debt that God has canceled on your behalf when you ask him to forgive your sins is far greater than any wrong that someone has done to your or will every do to you. In other words forgiven people will go out and forgiven others. When you truly come to realize that God in his grace and mercy has forgiven you for everything that you have ever done and for everything that you are ever going to do because of the simple fact that you asked, then you can’t help but forgive others. So go out and show the world the forgiveness that you have been given and you never know you might just change the world.