[W]henever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.
Homicide detectives and other police investigators have certain tactics they use to elicit confessions from criminals. One such tactic is appealing to the person’s conscience. This might seem counter-intuitive considering that the person being interviewed might be one who committed a great atrocity against another, and we might wonder whether that person has a conscience at all. Regardless, there is much to be said for this tactic of convincing people that they will be better off if they unburden themselves. You might think of this only in the context of unburdening ourselves when we sin. Interestingly, we have the same burden thrust upon us when someone else sins against us.
The point here is that sin is a burden indeed. It is such a burden that it can take us to the grave already spiritually dead and with no hope of being alive. Sin is such a burden that it impacts us not just related to our asking for forgiveness but our granting it as well. When someone sins against me, I might think that it is that person’s burden to seek forgiveness both from me and from the Lord. While that is not untrue, it also is my burden to forgive regardless of whether that person even asks for that release. Even though that person has sinned against me, I sin when I do not release that person from the offense. And when I do not release others from their offenses, the Lord does not release me from mine. I must decide whether I let sins committed against me bring me to the point of sinning by unforgiveness.
Jesus modeled this principle of unforgiveness right before He died on the cross. He never had sinned, so we might think that He never had to unburden himself. The truth is that He still had to forgive those who sinned against him. Part of being perfect and sinless was making sure not to carry unforgiveness. When He was on that cross and asked his Father in heaven to forgive those who had placed him there, Jesus was exhibiting the posture we need to have. No sin committed against us is ever so great for us to hold on and let it keep us from God’s grace. Father, help us to forgive as You forgive, to not let ourselves be burdened by our pain and separated from your grace.