Forgiveness from the heart is one of those traits of Christianity that is tremendously important in personal relationships. This is well understood already by those who love the Lord. Though it is, it is also one of those characteristics that can be as difficult to employ as anything a person is called upon to do.

Nevertheless, we are called on by the Lord to do exactly that. Matthew 18 is a chapter dealing with one’s response to a brother in Christ when one of the two (if not both) are guilty of affecting the relationship negatively, that is, there is sin that separates one from the other. For instance, if one brother sins against the other, the “victim” in this case has a moral/spiritual obligation to address the matter with the other brother, the one who is actually guilty. For what reason is this to occur? For reconciliation purposes.

But what if one brother has been so adversely affected by the other brother? I mean, what if the sin is so egregious that the separation is of such a gap that reconciliation is nearby impossible? If the guilty one really seeks to be forgiven by the one offended (sinned against) one, and makes an effort to be forgiven, then the brother sinned against has an obligation to render forgiveness to the one guilty.

“You just don’t know how bad it is!” one might reply. That is true, but be sure to remember, as the Lord spoke in such a context, that what you hope to receive from the Lord—“So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35, NET)

Forgiveness is a matter of the heart, and when the heart of the guilty one seeks reconciliation, asking to be forgiven, why would the offended one not desire that same reconciliation? Because of the heart.