Forgiveness is fundamental to the Christian walk. We have nothing of a lasting consequence in God’s kingdom if He retains our sin against us (Psalms 130:3). Therefore the act of forgiveness is, by necessity, a primary point underlying our relationship with God. For His desire for loving rapport to take effect, He must first forgive.
Christians read verses 3-4 above & think that, by obeying such teachings, they are following Christ. They are, but only minimally. There is definite distinction between mere obedience & true discipleship; between mere conformity to rules & conformity to Christ. Christ continues to forgive our multitude of egregious trespasses against His perfect righteousness & holiness as we entreat His bountiful mercy & grace; then we are called to do likewise in verses 3-4, but in order to obey Christ’s subsequent call to press beyond doing only “what (is) our duty”, we must understand & retain within our soul when He forgave our sins originally.
Romans 5:1-11 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, (4) and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, (5) and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Luke 17:3-4 commands forgiveness only when repentance is proffered. Many a Christian has validated his withholding of love to someone based on that person’s impenitence. Then, when they do repent, we think highly of ourselves as we so graciously accept our offender’s apologies & embrace him once more into our company. O how far removed from Christ-like love is this?! Where would we be if Christ demanded that our hearts soften towards Him before He would do anything for us? Then the cross of Christ could only come at the end of time, only after all were afforded the opportunity to beg of its saving mercy & grace. But no, the Father gave His Son, the Son gave His cross & the Spirit afforded us repentance & acceptance of that cross- all this “while we were still sinners”. Such mercy & grace bestowed to such unworthy individuals!
1 John 4:9-12 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (10) In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (12) No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
There is much more to following Christ than simply following His commands; in maturity, we must press on to follow His example as well.