I think it’s safe to say that you and I have found some common ground in this week’s topic. We may not be bound by a stronghold of unforgiveness, but this hard life in this broken world has a way of offering us countless opportunities to overcome the stronghold of unforgiveness. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that every single one of us has had to walk this hard road at some point or another in our lives (probably multiple times) of refusing bitterness and unforgiveness toward someone who hurt us and extending forgiveness instead.
Choosing to forgive an offense, a hurt, a betrayal, a wrong can be one of the hardest things to do, but this act of obedience releases joy, freedom, and victory into our lives. Here’s the thing about unforgiveness. It damages the one holding it, not the offender. Unforgiveness is like a hot coal from the fire in your hand. The longer you hold onto it, the more it hurts YOU. The enemy tricks us into thinking that when we hold unforgiveness against our offender that it is somehow paying them back for what they did to us. It’s not. It’s poisoning us, not them, and unforgiveness puts us in a very undesirable place in our relationship with God.
“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15 NIV
Here’s what I AM NOT SAYING:
Forgiveness is easy.
Forgiveness justifies or condones the wrong done against you.
Forgiveness is hard, and it in no way communicates that the wrong done against you is OK. Forgiveness is letting go. Forgiveness is releasing that person and the offense to the Lord, trusting that He is just and faithful. Forgiveness is practicing the mercy and grace that has been extended to us from Jesus Christ.
Think about the inconsistency of the forgiven refusing to forgive. An immeasurable amount of love, grace, and mercy was poured out on a Roman cross 2000 years ago because our sin (your sin, my sin) required a payment that none of us could pay. So, Jesus payed our debt in full. Every single day of our lives, we are in constant need of His mercy extended toward us. We are momentarily in need of His grace.
Mercy: not getting what you deserve.
Grace: getting what you don’t deserve.
If we are in Christ, we have received both in their fullest measure, and yet so many of us maintain a “Dead Sea mentality.” Have you heard of the Dead Sea? It’s the saltiest body of water on the planet. No life can survive in its waters. It sits 1,388 feet below sea level, meaning that much can flow into it, but nothing flows out of it.
How illogical and contrary to the heart of God for us to live this way. We readily and willingly and eagerly receive His mercy and grace to cover our own shortcomings and failures, but we are quick to refuse to extend that same mercy and grace to our offenders. Dead Sea. Listen, my heart is soft and incredibly empathetic towards you and your pain. I’ve endured some things in my own life that have felt unforgivable. I’m not even trying to suggest to you today that this is easy. It’s not. It’s hard. But it’s possible.
Forgiveness does not require an apology. Did you know that? Forgiveness does not require a restored relationship with the offender. Did you know that? Forgiveness is more about your freedom from bondage than it is about what the other person did to you. So much freedom hinges on our choice to forgive. So much. As hard as this might be for you and I today, we are invited to let go of the weight of unforgiveness and live free.
Below are a few Scripture prayers taken from Beth Moore’s book Praying God’s Word from the chapter Overcoming Unforgiveness. Feeling up for an additional exercise of faith? Pray FOR your offender! That’s a sure-fire way to walk in forgiveness, and the best way I know how to love your enemies: Pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Lord, as hard as this may be for me to comprehend or rationalize, Your Word is clear: if I forgive others when they sin against me, You, my heavenly Father will also forgive me. (Matthew 6:14)
Lord God, help me to speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:12-13)
Father, help me to understand that the punishment and repercussions that come to people when they have done wrong is often sufficient for them. Instead of causing more grief, Your Word says I ought to forgive and comfort the person, so that he or she will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. (2 Corinthians 2:7) Lord, help me to be the kind of person I’d want ministering to me after I had failed.
O Father, please cause the love of Christ to compel me to do what is right in this challenging situation. (2 Corinthians 5:14)
Lord God, give me more grace (James 4:6) so that I may increasingly extend it to others.