Forgiveness is a much needed balm for the soul that is too often in short supply. The ability to forgive is even sadly lacking in the Christian community. Many times churches suffer damage or even death due to a lack of forgiveness between members. Marriages are falling apart daily because of un-forgiveness. Families are estranged and friendships are lost because one party or the other is unable to forgive.
The only prescribed method for forgiving is found in the Word of God and it must be delivered boldly from the pulpit. Hosea 4:6 says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge,..” We must have knowledge of how to perform the difficult task of forgiving in order to be able to get to the place where we can release others. The flesh does not want to forgive and the enemy is well aware of that. Satan will tempt us to curse and rehearse the pain over and over that feeds the fire of anger and bitterness.
The key to forgiving others is to first realize how much you, yourself, want to be forgiven. The Bible teaches over and over that in order to be forgiven one must first forgive.
Mathew 6:12, in the passage commonly known as the Lords Prayer, says: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” If our debts (sins) are only forgiven as much as we forgive those who have hurt us how much will we truly be forgiven for? Scary thought, isn’t it?
Mark 11:25 says “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” It is so important to God that we forgive others that he says we must in order for him to forgive us. If we do not, the person who has offended us is actually standing between us and God.
So how do we do forgive? It’s very easy to pray about it and forgive a person when they are not standing in front of you. Often we are sure we have forgiven and let go. Oh, but when we see that person who hurt us or think about them, all that offense and the anger that comes along with will try to rise back up in us. Sometimes it can be like re-opening a wound and dousing it with alcohol.
Repeatedly dealing with the same issue is frustrating and discouraging and causes believers to even doubt their salvation at times. But God knew we would fight that battles and provided the answer in his word.
In the Book of Matthew, Chapter 18: 21-22 Peter brought that very problem to Jesus. He asked the Lord if seven times would be enough to forgive his brother who had sinned against him. Jesus replied that Peter (we) should forgive seventy times seven.
The interesting thing about that verse that we often miss is that the “seventy times seven” forgiveness may have to be for the same offense. Every time we remember that a person has harmed us and the anger and pain come back we may have to forgive that person all over again for the same thing we forgave them for the last time we remembered it. That’s right, it may not be a new offense, it may be the same one you have already forgiven. Forgive it every time you think about it. Set your mind to “take every thought captive” and when that offense comes to mind remind yourself that you have forgiven and refuse to go back there in your head.
Holding onto un-forgiveness allows the person who hurt you to control your thoughts, emotions and actions. Most of the time the person who committed the offense has moved on and is giving the situation no thought, yet they are still in control in the mind of the offended because of the un-forgiveness that will not let the offense go.
It has often been said that refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. There is great wisdom in that saying. When we do not release others, the harm that results is damage to self. Forgiveness provides more freedom to the giver than it does to the receiver.