In this article we look at the power of true forgiveness and how it can help us to avoid some of the most treacherous pitfalls that can derail our relationships and cause us to lose sleep, hair, friends and family and sometimes even our spouses.
“So what happened? I thought you had forgiven me for that?” He looks at her with a puzzled face. They had a little spat. You know the kind - one of those that started over something… can’t even think of what it was now. During the argument something came up from the past and caught him completely off guard, as if someone snuck up on him and sucker punched him. As he scrambles for words, looking not to offend the barrage of problems, previous conversations come hurling back into his mind leaving his thought processes like a battlefield of unresolved stories. Bad headlines are running through his mind like laser beams.
Those of us that have truly accepted the covenant of our Messiah should know how to walk in forgiveness. We should have this in our lives more than any other people on the planet. Why? Because as followers of Messiah we know that He came for us, on our behalf, that we might have access to our Heavenly Father. He came so that we might be forgiven. Therefore, forgiveness should be in our DNA. We should know how to, “Just do it!” Unfortunately, this is not so. Most believers struggle with this concept and struggle with it greatly!
Our example in prayer
9. After this manner, therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11. Give us this day our daily bread. 12. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:9-15).
The importance of forgiveness
Forgiveness must be important! Messiah is teaching his disciples how to pray and He’s giving them the model prayer. This is not an ordinary man mind you! They inquired with the KING OF THE UNIVERSE and HE gives this powerful outline for prayer that does not include just one commandment for forgiveness, but almost within the same breath, two separate commandments from our Master concerning forgiveness. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” And then again in verse 14+15: 14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
In fact, if you explore the scriptures you will find that this issue of forgiveness is a central theme to how we should live our lives as believers.
Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin (Leviticus 19:17).
Could it be possible that if we “nurse” unforgiveness that it will cause us to have hatred within our hearts? Could this be an open door for bitterness?
This reminds me of a grouchy old man that I once knew. He was a bigot and had a problem with people that were unlike him. It was clear and understood through the way he joked and how he treated others that were not like him. Once, someone asked him why he didn’t like other cultures of people and he quickly related the information held in his memory spouting some nice one-word descriptions and names for each of the various colors and cultures that he was questioned about. Just like a highly tuned computer looking for a certain file or as if he was driving down a familiar street, he would give a quick example of a certain culture how and why he felt the way he did about each one. With a look of a stone-faced assassin his demeanor almost dared anyone to say anything about his assessments and judgments. He was rock solid in his resolve and no one was going to change him. Everyone that knew him knew that.
As we spent more time with him, we realized that all of his issues with others had nothing to do with all of those ideals and assessments. All of his issues stemmed from one thing and one thing only, the lack of forgiveness. As time went on and we got to know this man more and more, it became very clear that his bitterness for other people and his worldview of hate was perpetuated through repeated circumstances of abuse, neglect (both to him and against him) and the overall lack of forgiveness.
Before you make the final judgment, I will tell you that this man was not only a believer in Messiah, faithful in his church and married to one woman and maintained what seemed to be a very normal family. He also was the pastor and leader of his congregation!
In his case, his lack of forgiveness didn’t destroy the visible structure of his family or children, but a deeper and more investigative look revealed very distant relationships with his wife, children and congregants. His inability to connect to other cultures caused problems with new members and families that would visit the church. It also caused problems with members that did not believe the same way he did. This man was very smart and a great public speaker/leader, however his inability to connect, stemming from his lack of forgiveness, caused those closest to him to question his intentions.
The mental and emotional stress that this man dealt through the years has resulted in several prescription medications, an overweight condition, and various other issues. In the end, he is the one who is paying the price for his lack of forgiveness.
The lack of forgiveness will cause bitterness
We did not run out and get a man so we could point out his flaws to you, and super-sensationalize his plight to help make the point. You know as well as I do that there are many examples of unforgiveness that loom about. The question is do you have any issues that you have not tackled? It always looks and sounds terrible when describing someone else’s situation, but we need to be truly investigating our own situations to make sure that we don’t have any issues that need to be resolved.
The fact of the matter is that the lack of forgiveness will cause bitterness. When we say to someone that we won’t forgive them we are essentially saying two things:
I don’t desire any mercy. This is dangerous because the scripture says that the merciful shall obtain mercy, (Matthew 5:7) How are we going to be shown mercy when we don’t give any ourselves?
I would like an open door that allows bitterness into my life. This is what happens when we cut off mercy and don’t allow it to flow in our lives.
Messiah said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”- Luke 23:34
Have you ever made a mistake or done something stupid? Have you ever listened to someone play back the verbal tape of a thing that you’ve done? If you are like me you were thinking, “I am so sorry that I did that!” We don’t like the embarrassment of doing something that we know was wrong.
No matter if there is something that we have done that was a “bonehead” move, or if we actually sin with intention, we usually don’t want the proverbial book thrown at us. Nevertheless, those of us who understand the Scriptures should be willing to atone for the things that we have done wrong. Likewise we should be the first ones to forgive and aid someone else in restoration when we are wronged. Forgiveness should come easy to us, considering who we are and how we have been established. That is, we have been given the gift of forgiveness and eternal life through Messiah Yeshua.
It should be possible for you and I (the people who claim to truly have Messiah) to have the ability to judge and forbear accurately. Paul actually gave the new Messianic believers some encouragement along the same lines:
“Don't you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can't you decide even these little things among yourselves?” (1 Corinthians 6:2).
We have some pretty clear instructions on what and how much we should forgive as well.
Messiah forgives us - This is how we are able to come into the Kingdom. Yahweh knew we were going to sin, but He still prepared Messiah for us. This mercy is eternal. It is a wonderful gift that becomes stained when we desire to not forgive.
Throw it out! We are taught to judge righteously as Believers and that we will one day be the judges that will judge the world. In most cases, are the challenges we encounter on a daily basis really worth holding on to? Situations like someone cutting us off in traffic, someone looking at us in a funny way, or someone talking about your mother. Perhaps it is issues of a more serious nature, like adultery and murder, or theft and other weighty matters. Can we truly look at these things through the lens of Messiah and forgive? Most of these cases need to be thrown out of the courtroom of our mind. They are not worth holding on to. Life is far too precious and far too short.
Model of Restoration
Here is a model of restoration right from the scriptures in Matthew 18 vs. 15-22:
15. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19. “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” 21. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22. Yeshua answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.
In conclusion, true forgiveness will set us free. It as much as any other commandment will enforce the Biblical lifestyle of righteousness living here on the planet and perpetuate the freedom that our Master Yeshua taught us through His life, death and resurrection. True forgiveness will set you free. True unbounded forgiveness is based in love and it takes no account of wrong, it does not judge improperly. 1 Corinthians 13:5
Let us strive with great effort to walk in unbounded forgiveness as Messiah has taught us.