Human beings are relational, social creatures. Often, relationships between people are compatible, mutually supportive and respectful. At other times, relationships are strained and marked by conflict. The Bible tells us we are all sinners (Ro 3:23), and sinful people wound and hurt each other. In this world, struggles, sin and conflict are a given. Even though we may get hurt and offended, Jesus expects us to forgive and extend mercy every time (Mk 11:25, Mt 6:14-15). How we respond to being offended and wounded can bring healing and freedom or torment and bondage. Forgiveness is essential to having healthy relationships, families, churches, as well as for emotional and physical health. In this message we will focus on what is true forgiveness, why we would even want to forgive and how we can truly forgive others from our hearts.
What does the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant teach about forgiveness and unforgiveness?
(vs21-22) Forgiveness and mercy should be unlimited.
(v25) Debt (sin) demands a payment.
(vs26-27) Forgiveness is a canceled debt.
(vs28-30) Unforgiveness is irrational. How can one forgiven so much not extend forgiveness?
(vs32-35) Unforgiveness has dreadful consequences.
Why would I want to forgive? (The Torment of Unforgiveness) (vs34-35)
Most people believe in forgiveness, but they are not always willing to forgive. Forgiveness is often associated with some degree of restraint and anguish. Research indicates that many Christians do not forgive, or they settle for limited modes of forgiveness. Here are some reasons why we would want to forgive seventy times seven and beyond.
The hand of God, the protection of Christ is pulled back from us. Torment comes but it is not God doing the torturing. There is access, or an entry point, that when we withhold forgiveness or ignore it, the torturous experience of anger, bitterness and resentment floods in.
Our sins are not forgiven. Guilt and condemnation settle into my heart.
Cant hear from God. Prayer life is hindered (Mt 5:24).
We become enslaved to those who have wronged us. We are imprisoned to torturous thoughts and agonizing unrest.
We become prone to sin and addiction. Discomfort in our life grows from the torment and we often seek to comfort ourselves through sins or habits that provide comfort such as pills, alcohol, overeating, pornography, excessive pleasure and entertainment.
We put up walls to protect ourselves from further wounds. We dont let others in and we cant get out, and we begin to emotionally dry up inside.
Unforgiveness in my heart affects other relationships. I can become harsh, angry, unkind, unloving.
I grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30-32).
Lack of forgiveness blocks access to the miraculous power of God (Ps 133).
Unforgiveness is often linked to physical illness, depression, emotional problems, mental illness and anxiety. Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments.
How do I forgive?
Make the decision to forgive. You will never forgive if you wait until you feel like it. Choose to obey God and resist the temptation to stay bitter. Trust that God will care for you and heal your wounds in due time.
Pray for the grace and the strength to begin to forgive. You cannot forgive without the power of the Holy Spirit. Its too hard on your own. God will enable you, but you must humble yourself and come to Him for help.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you have not forgiven those who wounded you and how you were wounded. Make sure you understand the offense.
Remember what true forgiveness is:
- A step of faith and obedience. Im making the decision to release the offense committed against me to God trusting that He will deal justly with the person who hurt me.
- Forgiveness does not mean that what was done to me was right or that I deserved it.
Be willing to face the pain from the past as you remember how you were wounded. Its okay if you are struggling forgiving someone. Forgiveness is unnatural to our flesh, seems unfair and can be a real struggle.
Forgive from your heart (Mt 18:35), not just from your brain.
- Say (out loud) I forgive __________ for _____________. Be specific (dont rush, take your time and repeat the process).
- Wait for your heart to open. It may be painful. God will give you the grace.
- Sincerely release the person who offended you.
- Repent of your feelings against the person and then ask God to forgive you (Lk 11:4).
- Pray for the other persons good.
- Repeat the process as much as necessary.
How do I know Ive truly forgiven someone? Forgive the person to the point where you actually feel yourself cleansed of resentment and bitterness and are actually praying for them.
Reconcile. If at all possible, meet with the person to reconcile with them. Try to win the person, not the argument.
If you are having difficulty with forgiveness and reconciliation, involve someone who can help you (mature friend, pastor, counselor, mentor).
Do you want to be free? God does not desire us to be tormented but uses this to hopefully cause us to repent and forgive those who have wronged us. If we wont forgive, bitterness will become firmly entrenched in our character. It will make us cynical, unable to trust and unable to maintain close relationships. Just as in Jesus parable of the unforgiving servant who was sent to the torturers, our own bitterness will torture us for a lifetime. On the other hand, forgiveness will free us to go on in peace, unhindered in our enjoyment of the Lord. Lets forgive the offenses of the past and put the responsibility of justice in Gods hands.