This week I worked through something called “Steps to Freedom in Christ”. Actually our entire staff walked through it. I have used this with many people over the years, but it had been a while since I did it. It is kind of like a good house cleaning, sweeping out all the junk that has been accumulating over the years.
The one area that surprised me was the section on forgiveness. I did not think I had anyone to forgive, but as I prayed and asked God to bring people to my mind that I needed to forgive, a bunch of people came to my mind. Most of them were small seemingly insignificant things that happened in the past. I was able to write their names down and then forgive each person by name and specifically what they did and how it made me feel. I let go of any ill feelings I had held and it felt good.
So what is forgiveness? I believe it is an act of compassion or love expressed when you are sinned against.
- Forgiveness Cancels a debt – When there is a debt, someone must pay. Either the one who owes must pay it back, or the one owed must take a loss. Forgiveness requires that the person who has sinned make amends or the one who has been sinned against must bear the pain and loss himself. Let’s say you borrow my chainsaw. When you return it the chain is broken. I can either make you pay for the repair or I can pay for it myself. Either way, someone has to absorb the cost. We can’t pretend the chain is not broken. If I choose to pay for the repair, then I have forgiven you your debt; it’s canceled. When you forgive the debt, you no longer expect to be paid back.
- Forgiveness is a three fold promise –
- I will not bring up this offense again or use it against you.
- I will not bring it up to others in gossip, or malign you because of it.
- I will not bring it up to myself and dwell on the offense.
For more on this idea of forgiveness, go read Matthew Chapter 18:21-35 – The parable of the unmerciful servant.
- Forgiveness is an event and a process – What I mean by that is that forgiveness is a choice, an event where I decide to forgive a person. However it is a process, because every time I think about the offense I need to continue to forgive, to not bring it back up and dwell on it.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting – When I forgive someone, I can’t erase my memory. I don’t have a reset button. In Isaiah 43:25 God says that He will “not remember our sins”, He is saying that he will not use our past sins against us. Forgetting can be a long-term result of forgiving.
- Forgiveness is not Peace at all Costs – Sometimes we think that if we forgive someone we become a doormat, and people will walk all over us. Scripture does not tell us to make it easy for people to sin against us. It calls us to love them well by challenging their actions. Godly confrontation is a healthy thing and so are healthy boundaries. Forgiveness and trust are not the same. Trust must be rebuilt through changed behavior and actions.
If there is someone you need to forgive, don’t wait until you feel like it, because that is unlikely to ever happen. Make that choice to forgive, even if they don’t deserve it. Unforgiveness is one of the biggest causes of emotional damage that people carry. It damages our relationships and keeps us in bondage. It can cause depression and anxiety and even physical illness. Unforgiveness hurts you not the other person. Make the wise choice today and forgive from your heart and cancel any debts that are hanging out there.
Here is the prayer I prayed:
Lord Jesus, I choose to forgive (name the person) for (what he or she did or failed to do) because it made me feel (share the painful feelings; i.e rejected, worthless, inferior).
Lord, I choose not to hold on to my resentment. I relinquish my right to seek revenge and ask You to heal my damaged emotions. Thank You for setting me free from the bondage of bitterness. I now ask you to bless those who have hurt me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.