The grace of God is a river that flows through us. Those who think they can be recipients of the grace of God without being gracious to others do not know God. The apostle John wrote: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Shortly after speaking the beatitudes, Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. In that model prayer he instructed us to pray for forgiveness from God. He immediately added this elaboration: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus was not advocating a “tit for tat” principle of divine reciprocity. God is not mean-spirited. Jesus was presenting a divine principle. Mercy is like breathing. You can’t breathe in without breathing out. We are unable to receive mercy without being merciful. If we have received mercy, we will naturally give mercy. That is the rhythm of the spiritual life.
Near my previous church in Pennsylvania, a culvert under a road became blocked. The conduit was not able to receive water in or send it out. The blockage caused great damage to the road and adjoining property. The human soul is a spiritual conduit. An unforgiving spirit obstructs the grace of God and causes great damage.
I have known Christians who are unforgiving. They believe they have been forgiven by God, but they are unable or unwilling to forgive others. That is a spiritual impossibility. The forgiven soul forgives. The unforgiving soul is unforgiven. That is not punishment from God; it is a spiritual principle.
The forgiveness of God transforms the soul with a spirit of forgiveness. When we experience forgiveness we are unable NOT to forgive. It is our new nature. It happens naturally without trying. That is how mercy works.
When we do not forgive those who sin against us, we remain bound by the unforgiven sin. It is not just our own sin that can keep us from God. Sins committed against us can also keep us from experiencing the grace of God. Mercy unblocks the soul and allows grace to flow. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”