Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.” At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything. The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back. “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35
The above parable is a tough lesson to learn about forgiveness. We should never have an attitude of an unforgiving heart. It does not matter what the person may have done to you, you still have to forgive them because Jesus forgave us when He died on the cross. I felt led to blog on the topic of forgiveness because I am in the midst of writing a chapter in my book about it. I spent 35 years of my life with an unforgiving heart and all it did for me was put me one-step from the grave. What happened to me when I was ten was very scarring to me. I’m not going to share what it was in this blog, but it will be in the book. Let’s just say it was pretty tough for a 10 year old to deal with. It was the key to my emotional eating to make myself feel better. Shame with an unforgiving heart will be an emotional prison and the warden is whoever wronged you to begin with. It took a good friend’s suggestion to read a book called The Shack, by Wm.Paul Young. The chapter about forgiveness cut to my heart and I had to ask God who have I never forgiven. Two weeks later God told me who, and I remembered. It still took me months to know that I finally had forgiven this person. Forgiveness is the key to unlocking that emotional prison we put ourselves in when we harbor an unforgiving heart.
There are 5 fearful statements that trip us up and keep us from moving forward with forgiveness..
- If I forgive the person, it will look like I am condoning their behavior and their sin. Nothing is further from the truth. When you forgive them it does not mean you are saying please continue in what you are doing. It says you don’t put conditions on your love and you want to see change happen in their lives. The key to most hurts is unconditional love, it can take you through some major hurts. The source of unconditional love is God. If you need some just look to Him and He will show you how to get there. Jesus didn’t have to hang on the cross, He could have stopped it if He wanted to, but He allowed it to happen to save us from our sin and give us forgiveness. We can’t let peoples perceptions keep us from freedom.
- I can never forgive what they did to me. Let’s face it, some betrayals and circumstances can be so evil that it’s really hard to get past our hurt. This is where we go from the realm of the natural to the supernatural. Only the Holy Sprit can uproot that hurt from our lives and give us freedom to forgive. You may not be able to get past it emotionally, but the Holy Spirit can get past your emotions to the heart of the hurt and heal you. When that happens, the unconditional love starts to flow.
- I wont’ forgive them unless they ask for forgiveness. This is nothing but a prideful heart at work. We should confess our sins to one another, but don’t expect that person that needs your forgiveness to confess them or even repent. Jesus forgave our sins way before we even were born and has forgiven the ones ahead in our lives. Don’t get me wrong we have to confess our sins, but don’t’ wait on someone to confess them before you forgive them. That’s just pride at work in your life, we have to be humble enough to let go of the hurt as well, not hold on to it as if it’s going to help us. You certainly can’t move forward in your life if you hang on to an anchor to the past.
- I can forgive, but I can’t forget. Of course, you are not going to forget, but with this statement, we are saying that my forgiveness goes as far as my memory allows. This is not unconditional love at work in our lives nor is it really forgiveness. It’s once again pride showing it’s ugly head. It should be I can’t forget what you did to me, but I will forgive it and move on from it. That’s what Jesus does with our sins, He remembers them no more. He moves on from them.
- If I forgive this person, I will have to restore my relationship with them. That may be true in some conditions, but not all. In the case of what I had to deal with, I really have no desire to have a friendship with this person or restore the relationship. What they did to me was pretty evil, but for me to move on I had to forgive them. It may just be that you end up restoring a lost friendship, that would be allowing pride to go away. It just depends on your circumstance and what was done. We can forgive without having a relationship with that person.
It’s not just important to your soul and spirit to forgive, but it’s also important to you physical health. For me I lost my health because of hanging on to that anchor to the past. Until I really dealt with it properly by forgiving this person, I really could not move on. I urge you to pray the prayer that I prayed, “God, is there anyone out there that I have not forgiven, please show me.” He will show you and you will be blessed to forgive them. Please share with me your forgiveness story if you have one to share. Forgiveness is freedom from allowing someone other than God to have control over your decisions in life. Give God back the power, not that person who wronged you.
© [David Howard], [David’s Body Temple]