For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
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Then, as I said before, meaning to signify, that of all things He most loathes and hates bearing malice, and most of all accepts the virtue which is opposite to that vice; He has after the prayer also again put us in mind of this same point of goodness; both by the punishment set, and by the reward appointed, urging the hearer to obey this command.
For if you forgive men, says He, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you forgive not, neither will He forgive you.
With this view He has again mentioned heaven also, and their Father; to abash the hearer by this topic likewise; that he of all people, being of such a Father, should be made a wild beast of; and summoned as he is to heaven, should cherish an earthly and ordinary sort of mind. Since not by grace only, you see, ought we to become His children, but also by our works. And nothing makes us so like God, as being ready to forgive the wicked and wrong-doers; even as indeed He had taught before, when He spoke of His making the sun to shine on the evil and on the good. Matthew 5:45
For this same cause again in every one of the clauses He commands us to make our prayers common, saying, Our Father, and Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven, and Give us the bread, and forgive us our debts, and lead us not into temptation, and deliver us; everywhere commanding us to use this plural word, that we may not retain so much as a vestige of anger against our neighbor.
How great punishment then must they deserve, who after all this, so far from themselves forgiving, do even entreat God for vengeance on their enemies, and diametrically as it were transgress this law; and this while He is doing and contriving all, to hinder our being at variance one with another? For since love is the root of all that is good, He removing from all sides whatever mars it, brings us together, and cements us to each other. For there is not, there is not one, be he father, or mother, or friend, or what you will, who so loved us as the God who created us. And this, above all things, both His daily benefits and His precepts make manifest. But if you tell me of the pains, and of the sorrows, and of the evils of life; consider in how many things you offend Him every day, and you will no longer marvel, though more than these evils should come upon you, but if you should enjoy any good, then you will marvel, and be amazed. But as it is, we look upon the calamities that come upon us, but the offenses, whereby we offend daily, we consider not: therefore we are perplexed. Since if we did but reckon up with strictness our sins of one day only, in that case we should know well how great evils we must be liable to.
And to let pass the other misdoings of which we have been guilty, each one for himself, and to speak of what have been committed this day; although of course I know not in what each of us may have sinned, yet such is the abundance of our misdoings, that not even he who knew all exactly would be able to choose from among these only. Which of us, for instance, has not been careless in his prayers? Which has not been insolent, or vainglorious? Who has not spoken evil of his brother, has not admitted a wicked desire, has not looked with unchaste eyes, has not remembered things with hostile feeling, even till he made his heart swell?
And if while we are in church, and in a short time we have become guilty of so great evils; what shall be when we are gone out from hence? If in the harbor the waves are so high, when we are gone forth into the channel of wickednesses, the forum I mean, and to public business, and our cares at home, shall we indeed be able so much as to know ourselves again?
But yet from our so great and so many sins, God has given us a short and easy way of deliverance, and one that is free from all toil. For what sort of toil is it to forgive him that has grieved us? Nay, it is a toil not to forgive, but to keep up our enmity: even as to be delivered from the anger, both works in us a great refreshment, and is very easy to him that is willing. For there is no sea to be crossed, nor long journey to be travelled, nor summits of mountains to be passed over, nor money to be spent, no need to torment your body; but it suffices to be willing only, and all our sins are done away.
But if so far from forgiving him yourself, you make intercession to God against him, what hope of salvation will you then have, if at the very time when you ought rather to appease God, even then you provoke Him; putting on the garb of a suppliant, but uttering the cries of a wild beast, and darting out against yourself those shafts of the wicked one? Wherefore Paul also, making mention of prayer, required nothing so much as the observance of this commandment; for He says, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. And if when you have need of mercy, not even then will you let go your anger, but art rather exceedingly mindful of it, and that, although you know you are thrusting the sword into yourself; when will it be possible for you to become merciful, and to spew out the evil venom of this wickedness?
But if you have not yet seen this outrageousness in its full extent, suppose it happening among men, and then you will perceive the excess of the insolence. As thus: should one approach you who are a man, seeking to obtain mercy, and then, in the midst of his lying on the ground, should see an enemy, and leaving off to supplicate you, begin to beat him; would you not make yourself more angry with him? This do thou consider as taking place with regard to God also. For so thou likewise, making supplication unto God, leavest your supplication in the midst, and smitest your enemy with your words, and insultest the laws of God. Him who made a law to dismiss all anger, you are summoning against those that have vexed you, and requiring Him to do things contrary to His own commandments. Is it not enough for you in the way of revenge, that you yourself transgressest the law of God, but do you entreat Him likewise to do so? What? Has He forgotten what He commanded? What? Is He a man who spoke these things? It is God, who knows all things, and whose will is, that His own laws be kept with the utmost exactness, and who, so far from doing these things which you are requiring of Him, does even regard you who sayest these things, merely because you say them, with aversion and hatred, and exacts of you the most extreme penalty. How then do you seek to obtain of Him things, from which He very seriously bids you refrain?
Yet some there are, who have come to such a point of brutishness, as not only to make intercession against their enemies, but even to curse their children, and to taste, if only it might be, of their very flesh; or rather they are even tasting thereof. For tell me not this, that you have not fixed your teeth in the body of him that vexed you; since you have done, at least as far as concerned you, what is much more grievous; in claiming that wrath from above should fall upon him, and that he should be delivered over to undying punishment, and be overthrown with his whole house.
Why, what sort of bites are as ferocious as this? What kind of weapons as bitter? Not so did Christ instruct you; not so did He command you to stain your mouth with blood. Nay, mouths made bloody with human flesh are not so shocking as tongues like these.
How then will you salute your brother? How will you touch the sacrifice? How taste the Lord's blood, when you have so much venom upon your mind? Since when you say, Rend him in pieces, and overthrow his house, and destroy all, when you are imprecating on him ten thousand deaths, you are in nothing different from a murderer, or rather from a wild beast that devours men.
Let us cease then from this disease and madness, and that kindliness which He com manded let us show forth towards them that have vexed us: that we may become like our Father which is in heaven. And we shall cease therefrom, if we call to mind our own sins; if we strictly search out all our misdeeds at home, abroad, and in the market, and in church.