Jesus taught all who follow Him to specifically pray that God would forgive us based on our forgiveness of those who hurt us. That means if we are unforgiving, we are praying that God be unforgiving to us! That is a very scary thought!
Matthew 6:12 [Jesus] forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
We need to really STOP and THINK about what that prayer is asking! And just in case we missed it, two verses later he expands and restates this important command.
Matthew 6:14-15 [Jesus] If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
God’s Word is very clear – our forgiveness from God is directly tied to our forgiveness of others. But Jesus is not saying that we EARN our forgiveness by forgiving others. Our obedience to His command to forgive is PROOF that we ARE forgiven. Matthew 5:45 says when we forgive “you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”
Mark 11:25-26 [Jesus] But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.
Luke 6:37 [Jesus] Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.
Colossians 3:13 Make allowances for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
James 2:13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you.
When we refuse to forgive others, we are being disobedient to God’s command. We are telling God by our actions that we don’t want to receive His forgiveness. We are REJECTING God’s forgiveness! Unforgiveness means that we would rather hold on to our own sin than receive God’s forgiveness.
Jesus lived out what He taught perfectly, especially as He hung on the cross. None of the people there acknowledged that their actions were wrong. None of them showed sorrow over what they were doing. None of them showed remorse. None of them asked for His forgiveness. And yet Jesus prayed His incredible prayer from the cross:
Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Jesus offered His forgiveness before anyone even admitted their NEED for His forgiveness, much less ASKED for it. That is our model. The more we understand God’s forgiveness of us, the more we are able to forgive others.
Forgiveness is supposed to be characteristic of Christians. The forgiveness Christians show others should help people see Jesus, so they can receive His forgiveness.
Ephesians 4:32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
John 13:35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.
TRUTH – OUR UNFORGIVENESS HARMS US
We have the twisted idea that by not forgiving someone, we are punishing THEM. That is a lie. ANY lie Satan can get us to believe that damages us spiritually is a victory for him. Remember, Satan is the deceiver, the father of lies… “Did God really say…”
We have to CHOOSE who we will believe – God or Satan. We must learn to recognize God’s truth, so we can recognize Satan’s lies.
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.
John 8:32 [Jesus] And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
When you realize something is a lie, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CONTINUE TO BELIEVE IT!!! But so many times, we do exactly that. When we believe Satan’s lies, we are by definition rejecting God’s truth. It is impossible to believe BOTH, because they are exact opposites. Satan’s lies are always intended to harm us. God’s commands are always for our GOOD. They are never intended to withhold anything good from us. God’s commands are given so that we can experience the best relationship possible with God.
Holly Walczak said “I will have to forgive you (T.J. Lane)… otherwise you will haunt me.” She understood a very important truth. If we refuse to forgive, WE will continue to live as the VICTIM. We are allowing the victimization to continue, and they will haunt us. We are putting all the power into the hands of the person who hurt us, and allowing them to have control over our lives.
When we follow God’s command to forgive, the past no longer has control over the future.
Satan uses bitterness, anger and resentment to keep us in bondage. We can take our bitterness and pour it out at the foot of the cross. When we do that, WE walk away free. The freedom may not come immediately, but it will come. When the hurt surfaces again, deal with it. It is a process, not a one-time event.
John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
When we truly forgive someone, the wrong will not dominate our thoughts any more. Don’t allow yourself to have fantasies of revenge, or plot against the person. That comes with a price you can’t afford. When we hate someone, we become their slave. They have control over our mind and we are allowing them to continue to hurt us.
Satan can not steal our salvation, so he can use this approach to steal our joy and our peace. Don’t continue to re-live the offense, or talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more we will magnify it in our mind. The story grows and grows, because whatever we choose to FEED is what GROWS! The reality of what happened is still there, and God never asks us to deny that. When we forgive, we are letting go of the bitterness, anger, resentment and the desire for revenge.
Proverbs Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the LORD to handle the matter.
Romans 12:19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.
The moment you become aware you are thinking about it, or thinking about revenge… stop and PRAY. DO NOT FEED IT. Give it to God and TRUST Him to deal with it. When we let it go, OUR pain is reduced and will eventually be gone. We will eventually get to a place where we will be able to pray for the person who harmed us. When God forgives, He promises not to drag our sins out and remind us of them over and over.
Isaiah 43:25 “I – yes, I alone – will blot out your sins for My own sake and will never think of them again.”
He doesn’t “forget” – He chooses not to remember, not to think about them again
Psalm 103:12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
Bitterness, anger, resentment and unforgiveness will short circuit what God wants to do in our lives. It damages our body, our mind and our soul. We have to learn to lay it down at the foot of the cross and choose to leave it in the hands of God.
Withholding our forgiveness DOES NOT punish the person who hurt us. It just lets the bitterness grow in our lives, and leaves US in pain.
SOME THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
What if T.J. Lane was YOUR son? How does that change the way you might think about the situation? WHY does it make a difference? Our love for someone affects our willingness to forgive. The thing is, Jesus commanded us to love others, which means we need to be willing to forgive them. (Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:8-9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8)
Finally, what if YOU were T.J. Lane? Are we really any “better” than T.J. Lane? Have you ever been so angry and so filled with hate that you have thought about killing someone? Jesus said that was no different than actually committing murder (Matthew 5:22). So we are all just as GUILTY as T.J. Lane. We are all capable of this kind of evil, because our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).
1 Peter 3:9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it.
God promises a blessing for our obedience to His commands. May we walk in His ways and be found faithful!
Forgiveness – the prisoner that it really frees is YOU! Matthew West