The Greatest Story Ever Told About
The Greatest Man That Ever Lived
If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.  
John 20:23

There have been various intrepretations of this verse.  The Catholic Church uses it to give priests
the power to forgive sins.  Is this what it really means, that we can forgive people's sins?   And
what happens if we don't forgive someone?   This verse says they are not forgiven, but what does
that mean and what are the consequences?   I struggled with the meaning of this verse for several
years until I experienced a situation that helped me understand what it means.

I was in a position where some Christian people owed me some money.  After many requests for
the money they just kept putting me off and telling me all sorts of stories as to why they weren't
able to pay me.  But they lived quite an affluent lifestyle at the same time.  After a while I realized
that it was not that they couldn't pay me, they had made a decision that they were not going to pay
me.  Even though they knew full well that they owed me the money, they simply were not going to
pay me.  This really troubled me that they could be this way.  And the more I pressed the issue, the
more arrogant and argumentive they became until all communication almost entirely ceased.   I
strongly believe in basic principles, and it's not like they could not pay me, they just thought they
could get away with it.  I searched my heart as to what I should do, and prayed about it a lot.  I really
felt that what they were doing was wrong and I was right.  Therefore, I could not let them get away
with it or else they would do the same thing to someone else and I would not be doing them a
favour by letting them off the hook. I felt that if I did I would be contributing to what was wrong.  So I
took them to court and won my case.  But even so, they only paid me a portion of what they owed
me.  I did not want to go through the entire process again.  I felt that I made my point, and it was
clearly established as to who was right and who was wrong in this case, so I told them that I would
not pursue collecting the balance through the courts, but that as far as I was concerned they still
owed me the money and I expected them to pay it back to me.   They told me that they felt that
they did nothing wrong.   And then God opened my mind and I understood what this verse means.  
I turned it over to God and left it at that.

According to this scripture, had I forgiven the balance of the money that they owed me, that
account would have been closed with God and they would never again be judged regarding it.   
The bible says that
"we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may
receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."  
2 Corinthians 5:10.
  Therefore, if I forgave the money they still owed me, when they stand before
Jesus, that would never be brought up.  And this is exactly the reason that I decided not to forgive
them.  Because they felt that they did nothing wrong, I decided to let them explain it to God.   By
not forgiving them, that account is still open with God and when they stand before Jesus, that issue
will be brought up and they will have to explain their actions to God.  Then Jesus can deal with it as
he sees fit.   I believe that this is what this scripture means.

If we have any issues or sins that we have not been forgiven for, when we stand before Jesus they
will be right there on the overhead screen and we will have to answer for them.   But if we make
things right with those we have wronged and they forgive us, the overhead screen will be blank
and we won't be judged on that issue.  The bible teaches us a lot about forgiveness, it's very
important to God that we forgive each other, and this is one of the reasons why.
Back to Studies                Homepage
Forgiveness