An entire airplane can be downed by a loose screw, and an entire human body can be made gravely ill by a microscopic bacterial cell. The natural laws of physics and physiology were made perfect by God, but have proven to be corruptible. One violation of a natural law can break down a system. So this is with spiritual laws, too.
Many of us are living with the original garden scene long gone, sometimes looking back with hindsight and believing that there never was one. Relational and thought patterns keep the offenses coming. Sometimes it’s in both directions. In some cases, we put down our self-made weapons years ago because they never properly won the battle for us, and we submit to predictably repeated one-sided offenses.
There is a way to stop this broken interpersonal system from continually hurting us. We may say that we have tried everything, but it may be that we tried for a season and gave up too soon. It is a perfect system, because Jesus is central to its functioning. He designed the system and went to great, excruciating lengths to get it up and running.
There is a way to stop this broken interpersonal system from continually hurting us.
Faith is necessary because time may be required for God to do His stuff. In that time, we may be asked by God to invest more. The enemy will work hard to discourage us and to incite us to snatch back our investment. He knows the power of this investment. He knows that forgiveness will meet every requirement needed to release us from his clutches. He also knows that forgiveness is key in walking in spiritual freedom.
The theme of forgiveness is interwoven in Jesus’ and Paul’s words. Jesus’ work on the cross was about paying a price for a debt, which is caused by our sin. Forgiveness is central to salvation through Jesus. The word forgiveness, as used throughout the New Testament in Jesus’ words and Paul’s teachings, is represented by the Greek word aphesis (af’-es-is). It carries the meaning of deliverance, pardon, complete forgiveness, a sending away, a letting go, a release, pardon and dismissal. It is not forgetting. It is saying that the person no longer owes you anything and you are releasing them from any further payment for their offense.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. It is saying that the person no longer owes you anything and you are releasing them from any further payment for their offense.
“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.”–
Instead of being empowered by more of the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us from the enemy’s slings and arrows, we become more vulnerable to them.
Instead of growing in grace, mercy, perseverance, patience and kindness, we begin to perseverate on what has offended us. As we replay the scene or scenes from our past, we reinforce them and give them power over us. When we hold onto unforgiveness, we also hold onto hurt. It is as if we are holding onto the dagger that cut our flesh instead of removing it and casting it off.
We hold the weapon that hurt us like a trophy so that we can say “Look what you’ve done to me!” What we don’t realize is that the wound can’t heal if you haven't removed the weapon from the wound. The wound, instead, festers and may create more pain. The person who cast the dagger may be long gone, or may still linger in your life, unaware of the hurt they caused.
Even if the person continue to create more wounds, the enemy has been released into your relationship by your unforgiveness. He or she may actually be empowered to hurt you more. Forgiveness must happen in order for the Holy Spirit to step in and help the situation. When you have forgiven, God will change things.
Jesus tells us to forgive, not because He is a controlling, unfeeling Master. The opposite is true: He wants to keep us from further hurt.
“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.’”
It is sad to understand that for some of us, forgiveness is hard. Some people have been given a tremendous amount of natural grace, just like some of us are naturally more peace-loving or patient. We must persist in our struggle to forgive, however, regardless of how hard it seems. It may be that forgiveness will yield a richer harvest if it is hard to give.
It is interesting to understand that unforgiveness can wreak havoc on the amount of love that we experience from the people who hurt us the most. In Luke 7:47, a woman who is know to be sinful anoints Jesus with oil. Jesus defends her when she is mocked. He says,
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."
When we withhold forgiveness, we bind the other person’s ability to love much.
When we understand how unforgiveness is a boomerang that comes back to hurt us, sometimes chronically or repeatedly, we understand that it is in our best interest to forgive. Be prepared for the enemy to continue to convince you that you are the one paying the higher price by forgiving. It doesn’t matter what the other person deserves, remembers, intended, or seems to be currently benefiting from, at your expense. None of it matters.
Settle all accounts between you and God and you and the other person and forgive. It is a commandment, and Jesus makes it clear that keeping track is fruitless. The harder it is to forgive another person, the greater the peace will be when you do forgive them. Your perspective toward that person will soon change as the Holy Spirit is released into your relationship and Satan is kicked out of it. The torment will end, in whatever form it is taking. It may not happen over night, but it will.
God created a system that is perfect, and when we forgive, we are showing faith in His promises. All of us need to do regular inventories of offense. We are told to examine ourselves before we receive communion (see I Corinthians 11:28) for this reason. We are also told that failure to do so has resulted in "many among you (who) are weak and sick, and a number of you (who) have fallen asleep" (I Corinthians 11:30). We must avoid these costs and forgive. Here's how;
5 Steps to Complete and Transforming Forgiveness
1. Forgive the person(s). Get alone with God and go over every offense that you can remember. Even the littlest offense, if remembered, is important to forgive. You may want to write them down and burn them, or you may want to mentally nail the list to the cross, where Jesus paid for all of our sins, and leave it there. Don’t reclaim offense in the days and weeks ahead. Forgive and forgive and forgive. Forgiveness will get easier each time the offense rears it's ugly head. There is a cost to forgiveness, but it must be paid. The cost to not forgive is greater.
2. Bless the person. Just say “God bless ___________.” These words situate you firmly on God’s side of this. The enemy wants you to continue to play the game his way by cursing the person. This stops cooperation with the enemy dead in its tracks. It's time to stop talking about the other person, too. There is no longer a need to tear the person down. God is taking over for you now.
3. Pray for the person. Steps 2 and 3 are in obedience to Luke 6:28, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Just follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. In the beginning, when things are still very painful, this can be short and simple, like, “Help them, God. Change them to be more like You.” Or you can pray for the person’s salvation, if they need to know Jesus. Your prayers for them are more powerful now. You have acted in righteousness by forgiving them (see James 5:16).
4. Release them to love more. Say to God, “I have forgiven them, God. Now please do your work in their life and help them to love more. I release them to love more.”
5. Thank God for Jesus and His forgiveness of your sins. Keeping Jesus' work for you utmost in your mind levels the playing field. It keeps us humble when the enemy seeks to reestablish a feeling of offense in our hearts and minds. Our thankfulness in all circumstances pleases God (see I Thessalonians 5:13).
It isn’t possible to withhold forgiveness and truly thrive spiritually.
Forgive and open the doors to blessings and emotional freedom and wholeness. Begin to live without bitterness and distrust. Joy and hope flood in as our hearts heal. God bless you as you endeavor to go where you haven’t gone before, and seek to fully bless God with your obedience to Him. You may have just embarked on a new and wonderful season in your life! It is wonderful to come before God with a truly clean heart.
See also the related article,
5 Steps to Freedom through Forgiveness