“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:15-16 – Spoken by Jesus Christ
I apologize for the inevitable length of this installment. I am doing my best to condense this without leaving out the important stuff. There will be other parts following this one, but this part will help complete the groundwork of the battlefield of life where Forgiveness is our greatest weapon.
A great deal of this depends on you. It depends on the state of your heart, and your willingness to genuinely forgive. I will be covering this in this installment. I appreciate your patience and indulgence with the length of this article.
In part one I covered a few of the stumbling blocks in our daily walk in Christ, where it comes to forgiveness.
1. Being willing and desiring to forgive. It is MY WILL that is forgiving or unforgiving.
2. Rehearsing over and over again the litany of wrongs done to you.
3. Pride – the belief that the person who offended you ought to know you are offended and ought to come to you to ask for forgiveness, that YOU shouldn’t have to go to them. (This one is a whopper, as Jesus himself went to the people who needed forgiveness instead of the other way around.)
4. Fear – Fear of being taken advantage of, Fear of rejection, fear of being misunderstood.
Most of our unforgiveness toward others can be boiled down to these 4 things. I have no doubt you can come up with more than this list, but I think these are the roots of unforgiveness.
Sometimes these stumbling blocks hang around, impeding your walk for various reasons. Perhaps you have to continue to forgive someone who insists on hurting you. Perhaps you are angry at them, or angry for some other reason. Perhaps you harbor anger and don’t even know it.
Before anyone decides I should walk in their shoes, let me tell you. I have been hurt deeply by people I love completely. The details are none of your business, but I genuinely do understand the intense pain of betrayal, of intentional deception, of abandonment by brothers in the Lord. I have been disowned, cursed, gossiped about, lied to, and some have done far worse things than this to me. So believe me when I tell you, I understand the pain of the deep hurt by loved ones.
When this type of hurt happens, you feel as if you are in an explosion. Nothing is the same again, ever. It takes time even to realize how real this situation is. It takes time to regain your bearings from the intensity of this sudden hurt. Your friends may abandon or betray you, your loved ones will offer you anything but hope and mercy and grace. Those closest to you will judge you.
These are hurts that take time to get over. The hard part about this hurt is, if you are not careful, you will let anger and bitterness grow roots and take over your heart and mind. When this happens, your ability to love and trust and commune with the Living God is impeded by the bitterness that flows in your veins.
I am begging you today, if this is you, find a way to stop yourself from getting deeper involved in the anger and bitterness. The last 20 years of my life are the result of me losing my bearings, and taking matters in my own hands.
When Jesus was instructing the disciples on how to pray, He included this phrase, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matt 6:12. After that, He continued to instruct his disciples saying, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:15-16
You will know when you have unforgiveness because your joy in the lord is diminished, your communion with Him feels incomplete. You have a stumbling block keeping your walk from being joyous,, fulfilling and growing. You are at a standstill with God.
Listen to these hints from the Spirit of God. If there is unforgiveness between you and God, it is likely because you have unforgiveness between you and someone else. Or unconfessed sin. God will wait right there with you, as long as it takes until you take care of your business. The good news is that God will be with you because He always empowers obedience to Him.
If God acted in any other way toward you, while you hold bitterness and unforgiveness and anger in your heart, then He would be contradicting His own nature. He would be condoning sin.
Jesus taught that we reap what we sow. An unforgiving spirit affects every aspect of your life. It will come back to you with interest. When it does, this is when anger and bitterness can set root.
An unforgiving spirit will generate in you a critical spirit. Unforgiveness is detrimental and destructive, and will influence everything else you try to do. If you find yourself being overly critical or overly cynical, there is a chance you are harboring unforgiveness, that has given root to bitterness.
When Jesus was teaching the disciples about forgiveness, Peter (A man I can clearly identify with), asked Jesus: “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?”
“Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matt 18:21-22
Was Jesus telling Peter you have to forgive someone 490 times, then all bets are off? No. Forgiveness takes practice, and Jesus was telling Peter you must forgive repeatedly. The good news is that, the more you do it, the better you get at doing it.
In other words, Jesus was telling Peter, and the others, that there is no measuring rod. I can tell you that, by the time you get in to the habit of forgiving, you actually lose count. We do not return insult for insult, but we bless those who curse us, and pray for those who despitefully use us. When you get in this habit of this kind of Grace and Mercy, forgiveness will grow in your heart until you have a joy about forgiving. In other words, When you can learn to forgive, you will find there is NO LIMIT on forgiveness.
Forgiveness comes from your heart, not your lips. How many times has someone said or done something to offend you, and immediately they said “I’m Sorry”, and you said “I forgive you”. Then after they left, you couldn’t wait to tell everyone you know how you were wronged?
So the burning question here is, since Jesus has forgiven you ALL you have done against God, how many times and things will you forgive others?
Unless forgiveness comes from the heart, it is not forgiveness. You don’t really have to forget, either. If it is genuine forgiveness, when it comes to your mind later on, it will be in the form of lessons learned.
To not forgive means you would rather wear the chains of slavery to anger and bitterness. Some people actually fall in love with their anger and bitterness. It gives them something to wallow in as an excuse to not do business with God. It feeds our vanity to be this way. We get to present ourselves as the wronged ones, and try to illicit sympathy form others, so you can look like you are really suffering for your faith.
THIS is really a faithless act, and is sin, too. It is pride and fear that keeps you in chains.
Who are you angry with? What did they say or do that means they can never be forgiven? What have you said or done that means God can never forgive you? Do you want differential treatment over this issue? In order to be forgiven, you have to forgive. You cannot get rid of this anger or hurt by running away from it. You have to put your offering down and go deal with it. You have to let the Holy Spirit deal through you for healing to really happen.
Hurt is hard, Especially when it is repeated hurt, willful hurt, intentional hurt. No person who deeply loves can just switch off the hurt. It is a process. It may not come instantly.
Here is the process that leads to forgiveness. You may have to do this every 5 minutes, or every day, or as often as it takes until the Spirit of God has worked in you to forgive.
STEP 1: ANGER You have to acknowledge your anger. Confess it before the Lord. Lay it at His feet. He loves you and cares for you.
Make this confession after you have asked forgiveness for sin and anger: “Because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I have experienced God’s total forgiveness in my life”. “I have been saved by his grace, His love, and His mercy.” “All of my forgiveness has come from God.”
FORGIVENESS is one of the very first gifts God gives you. Forgiveness is ongoing in your life, because you are human, and make mistakes. But God is HAPPY and DESIRING to forgive. It is His joy to do this in your heart. He will show you, that the forgiveness that began at the Cross, is still going on today, in you, in your life. He will give you the gift of forgiveness. Do business with God first. Forgiveness is a gift that will grow in your heart the more of it you give away. God has been doing this for you every day of your whole life.
Make this confession: “I AM FORGIVEN!” Keep doing this until it becomes real to you. It is oftentimes a process. But the anger has to go away.
STEP 2: BE WILLING. Be willing to confess your anger, hostility, rage, resentment, and whatever feelings you have toward that person. Ask God to forgive your anger and hurt for that person. BE SPECIFIC. When you are specific, it breaks the bondage. You must be willing to deal with it specifically and personally. If you are genuinely confessing something, you have to deal with it. God will wait for you to do this, and He will empower your obedience.
STEP 3: THE WORD. Learn that your unforgiveness is a violation of the word of God. If I have an unforgiving spirit, I have sinned against God and others. Know what the Bible has to say about forgiveness and unforgiveness. Look it up in your Bible index. You have to know the word, confess the word, and recognize this in your heart. Out of the overflow of your heart, comes the issue of your lips.
STEP 4: ASK GOD to forgive you. Be specific about what you have said, or done, or felt in your heart against the person who hurt you. God will take that and relieve you of it. Confess all of it. You may have to do this a few times as things float to the surface.
There is nothing in the scriptures about CONDITIONAL forgiveness. The Bible doesn’t say, “Ask your brother to forgive you UNLESS…he rejects you, misunderstands you, or it is just too painful for you.” You will not find that in the Bible.
We are to forgive no matter what. No matter the outcome. No matter the consequences. Even if that person doubles up on your pain, forgive anyway.
So, here we are dealing with the root of the problem. It is an act of will that you forgive. It was an act of will that Jesus died for you. Jesus prayed at the garden, “Not MY will, father, but thine.” God helped Jesus align Jesus will with the father’s will. In the same manner, God will empower you to align your will with His if you ask from deep in your heart. You have to be willing.
You may have to go to that brother and ask him or her to forgive you for your unforgiveness toward him or her. You have an attitude in your heart. You have judged him unworthy of forgiveness. Even IF he has wronged you, you still need to go to that person and ask him to forgive you of your attitude for him.
Pray this: “By an act of MY will, Father, and by the power of the Holy spirit that lives within me, Father, I lay down my anger, my bitterness, my ‘right’ to be offended, my hurt. I lay them all down at your feet,.”
This stops being about your feelings when you do this. It becomes an act of your will. Say, “I choose to lay it down”. You will that God takes it from you. If you leave this at the Father’s feet, God will remove the hurt from your life. Acknowledge His forgiveness as you lay down your anger. There may be MANY people you are angry with. Be willing to do this for each and every one of them.
It is a process.
God will let you know if you need to go to that person or not. God will strengthen you to admit and gracefully confess to that person the conflict, as you seek forgiveness from that person about your attitude toward him.
If God sends you to that person, and you talk to him, DON’T ENUMERATE THE LIST OF THINGS DONE WRONG AGAINST YOU. Remember what it says in II Corinthians that Love does not keep an accounting of the wrongs done against it. God is Love, and His Spirit abides in you. You don’t need to rehearse all the wrongs done against you to that person. It will only make things worse. Confess the attitude you have had toward that person, ask his forgiveness for your attitude, and leave it at that. God will do the rest.
Genuine forgiveness does not build up a legal case, or a defense for your hurt, and say, “I will forgive you BUT.” There are no buts to forgiveness. You either forgive or you don’t. Forgiveness is an act of grace, mercy, and unconditional love. Forgiveness is given with no limitations or demands.
Don’t front-load your imagination about forgiveness. In other words, don’t try to predict what his reaction will be. You may be surprised at his reaction.
When you genuinely forgive others, not only do you set yourself free of the chains that bind your walk with God, but in the act of forgiving, you also set that person free of those same chains.
There is a true and genuine feeling of freedom when you allow God to work in you to remove the stumbling blocks of unforgiveness and anger. I know this because I have been doing this. The more I do this, the more free I feel in my heart and soul. Anger becomes a last resort for me, instead of a first reaction.
BUT SUPPOSE THEY LIVE 1000 MILES AWAY, OR ARE ALREADY DEAD?
Ask yourself, “Is the unforgiveness still in my heart?” If the answer is “yes” then you have a stumbling block. Forgive them anyway.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Get two chairs. Set them 2 feet apart facing each other. You sit in one, and and you imagine that that person is sitting in the other one. Tell that person exactly what you would say if they were really sitting in that chair. Confess your attitude. Ask forgiveness. Chances are, if that person were a real difficulty in your life, you will have to do this several times before it gets real, and you forgive. Just do it. Ask their forgiveness for your attitude. (I got this exercise from Charles Stanley).
Once you deal with that issue, claim the forgiveness by faith. then tell yourself, “That is the end of THAT!” If it turns out that it is not the end of that, do it again until it is. I promise you, one day, you will get up from that chair, and you will be genuinely free of unforgiveness.
HOW Will I KNOW WHEN I HAVE REALLY FORGIVEN THEM?
I’ll tell you how you will know. And I have experienced this repeatedly, so I know this is a fact.
The next time you think about them, there will not be any “static” in your heart toward them. You will have a sense of freedom from that burden. The harsh feelings are gone. You will feel compassion for them and hope the best for them. Somehow, you will be able to accept them as they are. If the grievance is over a terrible wrong this person has done, let God have His way with that person. It is not your place to hold unforgiveness.
When you are really and truly set free, you will be able to say in your heart, “Thank you God for teaching me about your grace. Thank you for this lesson I would have not have learned if you had not brought me through this. You have genuinely turned my curse into a blessing.”
This is not a one time thing. You will have to forgive over and over in your walk. How many times? 70 X 7.
I love you in the Lord.
Let me know if you need prayer for anything.
I am your little brother in Christ Jesus.
David G. Perkins