The Astounding Priority of Forgiveness

By Mark D. Roberts

January 11, 2017

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Mark 11:25


Stocks used for offenders in the middle ages.Teamwork can be one of the greatest joys of work. Yet, working with others can also be the source of considerable pain. If you are part of a close-knit team, it is almost inevitable that you will, at some point, hurt others and be hurt by them. Sometimes the injury is intentional, when, for example, someone chooses to stab a colleague in the back. But, often, we wound others quite unintentionally. And the same is true for times when they injure us. Thus, if we are going to work effectively in our teams, and if we’re going to have healthy relationships with our colleagues, then we need to learn to forgive and receive forgiveness in the context of our work.

I’ve just offered a practical case for forgiveness in the workplace. But Jesus makes an even stronger argument for our need to forgive those who have wronged us. In Mark 11:25 he says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Wow! Like I said, a strong argument for forgiveness. Our willingness and ability to forgive others is, in some way, a prerequisite to our receiving God’s forgiveness for ourselves.

This saying of Jesus assumes a familiar backstory. A person holds something against someone because that other person has done something to wrong him or her. That’s why forgiveness is mentioned by Jesus. The one who was hurt has two choices: either continue to hold something against the offender or choose to forgive.

Jesus does not explain how our forgiving others leads to God’s forgiving of us. He simply makes the causal connection clear. If you forgive the one who wronged you, then God will forgive you. This certainly encourages us to forgive those who have hurt us, doesn’t it? After all, we surely want God’s forgiveness, don’t we?

In tomorrow’s devotion I’ll say a little more about forgiveness, what it is and what it is not. For now, I want to leave you with what Jesus says about the necessity of forgiving others, not just your family members or friends, but “anyone” who has wronged you, including your colleagues, your boss, your subordinates, your competitors, and, well, you name it.


As you consider your life, are there people who have wronged you and against whom you are holding something over, a grudge or a persistent unforgiveness towards?

What is keeping you from forgiving the one who has wronged you?

If you’re struggling to forgive, are you willing to share this with the Lord, and to ask for his help?


Gracious God, we confess that it is easy for us not to forgive those who have hurt us, at home, at church, in our neighborhood, and in our workplace. Sometimes we try to ignore the offense and move on. Sometimes we intentionally harbor unforgiveness. It seems to offer the promise of protection, even of getting even. So we fail to forgive.

Lord, forgive us for our unforgiveness. Help us, we pray, to forgive so that we might receive more deeply your forgiveness of us. Soften our hearts, both to others and to you. Set us free from unforgiveness so that we might be your people more fully, in every part of life, including our work.

To you be all the glory! Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentaryGod’s Character Is to Have Mercy on Everyone (Romans 9–11)


Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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