For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)
What comes to mind when you see a warning sign “NO TRESPASSING”? For some, it signals a selfish property owner or an unreasonable government entity. As for the owner or guardian of the property, the sign may be necessary to ensure not only protection for animals, people, or vegetation, but also so that important work is not disturbed. The sign may indicate gaining permission and instruction before safely accessing the property.
We don’t know all the reasons our Heavenly Father put up the following “NO TRESPASSING” sign. But after His warning was violated, everything on earth changed.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
Has someone ignored your personal “NO TRESPASSING” sign? Has that person disturbed or done permanent damage to the Holy Spirit’s work in you or someone close to you? Yes, it matters. Yes it hurts. Yes, you may be entitled to human or even divine justice. But here is an astounding perspective on grace and mercy from the heart of Jesus after he underwent three unjust trials that left him suffering under the most shameful of executions:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 ESV)
In Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, he presents two neighbors with differing views of the stone boundary wall between them. The first neighbor repeats the sentiment, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall”, suggesting the wall is unnecessary because reasons for the wall have seemingly vanished. But the other neighbor insists, “good fences make good neighbors”.
Has someone likewise contested a personal boundary that should be respected? Are you tempted to cross someone else’s boundary? If a serious boundary violation has already occurred, our Heavenly Father urges us to shift natural desires for unlimited vengeance to His timely and capable judgment. LIkewise, He insists our forgiveness must harmonize with His mercy toward fence jumpers. Are feelings still raw from one of those painful intrusions? Talk over the offense with our Heavenly Father to gain His perspective.
Here’s a less personal exercise (maybe): Observe these two photos below. Was it necessary to put a fence around these invaluable giant trees – some over 3,000 years old? Can you lay aside a desire for vengeance and forgive those who regarded these trees as trophies or lumber? Forgiveness is necessary, but it is impossible without allowing God to change your heart.