For the last couple of posts, this blog has focused on the topic of forgiveness. Understanding forgiveness from God’s perspective is so important I’ve decided to give you more food for thought on the subject.
From time to time all of us have a seemingly good reason to hold a grudge; that’s part of life. If you are going to live on this planet, you will be hurt by other people. You cannot escape it. Even if you left this planet, you would probably have your feelings hurt when your friends neglected to call or write.
Now that we’ve established offence is inevitable, how are we going to deal with it? There are two choices. You can harbor and nurture anger, bitterness and resentment or you can forgive. You can hold them accountable for their wrongdoing or release them. (In a previous post I pointed out the literal meaning of the Greek word that is translated as forgiveness in the New Testament is to release someone from punishment for some wrongdoing.)
Because of the inevitability of being offended in this life, there’s a good chance someone in your life has “done you wrong.” Because of their wrongdoing, it’s natural to feel as though they owe you something…they are indebted to you. Maybe they owe you some money. Maybe they “owe” you an apology. Maybe they owe you another chance. Maybe they owe you more respect. Whatever the debt, you are determined to make them pay.
Like the wicked servant in Matthew 18, you have probably even gone so far as to have them thrown into prison. Not a literal prison, but a little prison you have constructed in your own heart. A cruel and dark place where you keep your debtors locked up, until you feel their debt is paid in full. Every once in a while, in your own mind, you take them out of their cell to beat and torture them. You may have people who have been locked up so long you can’t even remember what their offense was.
It is tragic to see a person who refuses to release those who have offended them. They imprison the offending party until they feel the debt is paid in full, but in reality they are the ones who are held in prison by their own anger and bitterness. They are the ones who are tortured most. There is emotional torment for the person who lives a life of unforgiveness. True peace eludes them. There is always a bitter memory; a continual replaying of hurtful words and actions.
According to medical science, an attitude of unforgiveness is hazardous to your health. Aside from the obvious headaches and ulcers, there is also an increase in most other illnesses due to a weakening in the immune system from the stress and fatigue caused by unforgiveness.
Worst of all, are the spiritual consequences. As the wicked servant eventually learned, God will not forgive the person who will not forgive others. His actions evoked the immutable law of Galatians 6:7 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Remember the admonition of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 6, verse 14 and 15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Some time ago Billy Graham stated the benefit of forgiving others succinctly when he said: “If His conditions are met, God is bound by His word to forgive any man or woman of any sin because of Christ.”
The first condition to obtaining forgiveness for the sins we’ve committed against God is to receive the free gift of salvation He provided through His Son, Jesus. Another important condition is that we also forgive those who have sinned against us.
Remember the golden rule: “do unto others….”