“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15
We all feel good about being forgiven for something we did wrong. As we see from the verse above, we must forgive others for their wrongdoing, or God will not forgive us for our misdeeds. Forgiving someone who did something wrong to you does not mean you excuse what they did; it means you move past the evil deed, and you have peace in your life.
I wish I had learned this lesson early in my life. As I grew up, I attended so many church classes based on this very lesson. I did not understand how practical the message was. To me, the critical point is that your life improves when you forgive someone else.
When I played football in high school, the competition among all the players on the team was intense. Many of the athletes were working to earn a scholarship for college. Sometimes players would take credit for successful plays when the effort that created the success was from a different player. During my first three years of high school, I played football with the focus of getting as much credit for helping the team as possible. I wanted to earn a scholarship, and I did everything I could to promote my skills. When I had to move from a small town in Northern California to Los Angeles for my senior year, I thought all my dreams were gone. When I prayed for help from God; the message I received was to play for the team, not myself.
When I moved to Southern California, I played football using the new philosophy. When other players made mistakes or took credit for things I did, I did not let that create stress for me. I felt in my heart that I was not bothered by the actions of the other players. When I could contribute to another player by informing them about something they could do better, I would do it. I would not maintain resentment.
The result was that I received much more credit than I ever did in Northern California, and I did not hold any grudges against anyone when things did not go well.
The critical point about this lesson is not that you let everyone get away with everything. The strength of the Christian Lesson is that you do not add stress to your life by judging others. Release yourself from that stress and focus on doing well and helping others. This lesson does not mean that you think evil deeds are ok when done by others; it means that you do not allow that evil to add stress to your life.
The most important point I learned was that when I forgave other players for things they did to the team or me, some of those players became close friends and changed their behavior. I realized that playing for the team was a concept that applied to my entire life. I did not relate the idea of playing for the team to Matthew Chapter Six until much later in life. The message God sent me my last day in Northern California was the theme from the Christian Lesson I read many times. We must apply Christian Lessons to our own lives and work to understand the critical points.