These two topics do not seem to go together, but I will try to explain how my mind is working this morning to make the connection. The Bible says that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10). This is not the fear you feel when you hear a strange sound at night that awakens you and makes your heart beat fast. No, I’m referring to reverence for the Lord, the respect due Him because He is the Creator and the one who hears and answers our prayers.
How does this kind of fear help us to escape the snare of death? Well, if we fear the Lord, then we follow what He has told us to do. And one of the things that the Lord emphasized during His ministry was to forgive others.
If you want God to forgive your sins, then you have to forgive others. When I think about all that Jesus has forgiven me, it makes it easier to forgive others. The Lord didn’t say that forgiveness was an option if you felt like it. No, he stated that if you refuse to forgive others, then Your Father won’t forgive your sins. And Colossians says you MUST forgive one another AS the Lord as forgiven you. “Must” is something you have to do. For example, if you want to arrive safely at your destination when you are driving, you must stop at the stop signs. That is not a stop if you feel like it. It’s a warning to do it in order to save your life, just in case another car is coming at the same time. Likewise, having bitterness in your heart is like going through a stop sign. You are taking unnecessary chances with your life. Who does unforgiveness hurt? Not the person you are angry with! It hurts you! Don’t you think your Heavenly Father knows the stress that bitterness and anger against someone causes you? So, He who knows you best and loves you most has told you to fear HIm and in so doing to follow His advice that leads to life, i.e. forgive. Don’t hold grudges. I speak from experience because I used to say as a matter of routine, “Yes, of course, I have forgiven (fill in the blank), but I am not forgetting what they did to me.” Sounds good, right? I forgive, so I am doing what God told me to do. Not really. When God forgives our sins, they are removed from His memory. He sees us through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. (Psalm 103:12 says God removes our sins “as far as the east is from the west.”). Now, if you are honest, then you know that true forgiveness is hard. Each time a person who has offended you comes to your mind, you should be saying to yourself that you have forgiven him or her. Then, move on with your life and don’t dwell on the offense. Who is helped by forgiveness? You are! Physically, emotionally and spiritually. Do you want to feel better? Fear the Lord and forgive! Over and over again…as many times as you are offended, forgive and you will reap the benefits of freedom from holding a grudge. And perhaps in so doing, you will save a friendship or a marriage or another important relationship. Doing God’s will is always what is best for us!