Forgiveness. It’s a big word with big implications. And they are all about us.
We readily receive forgiveness from God. We expect it from God. But how easily and readily do we give it to others?
Ouch! It hurts me to even think about it. Because I want to hold onto the hurt and punish the person who caused it. Because I want to see justice done and people get what’s coming to them so I am vindicated. Because in my illogical human emotions I think I deserve to be right in being wronged. And don’t we always have our handy list of reasons and excuses why we can’t forgive?
- But God, he (she) is wrong and needs to admit it.
- But God, this person is being willfully disobedient.
- But God, he (she) made me so mad and doesn’t seem to care.
And to every excuse and reason we give, God has one answer – FORGIVE. He always says forgive.
- You want someone to admit he (she) is wrong. And God reminds you that you are wrong quite a bit. How readily do you admit it and ask for forgiveness? How often do you admit it to God and repent?
- You want a stubborn person to conform. And God reminds you how often you disobey, voluntarily. Him, your parents, your boss, your spouse, your pastor.
- You are upset that someone doesn’t care he (she) made you mad. And God reminds you that you are often ambivalent to people’s feelings. How often have you apologized for unintentionally hurting someone when they bring it to your attention?
And so He says you must forgive. With every insult, every objection, every injury, every hurt, every thoughtless action. No exceptions. No excuses. Always forgive. Much to our chagrin.
Even the disciples were like “really, Jesus?” when it came to forgiveness. They thought once or twice and then no more would be acceptable. But Jesus says just as God’s forgiveness toward us is limitless, so too should we forgive without limits. When asked by Peter in Matthew 18:21 “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”, I can almost see Jesus rolling His eyes as He realized that once again Peter didn’t see God’s standard (yet). So in Matthew 18:22 “ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”
He didn’t mean only 490 times in your entire lifetime, so you can stop counting. He meant keep doing it, without end and without counting. Jesus picked an unusual number to make His point.
Do you think God is keeping track of how many times He has forgiven us? Do you think He says “489. Hmmm. One more time and then I have to write her (him) off. Oh, well. Too bad she (he) couldn’t stop at 480.” Never!
God is about unconditional love and forgiveness. That means 490 is just the beginning. He forgives us 490 times per day – and more, if we need it. And He expects us to do the same!
He expects us to forgive freely, willingly, repeatedly, completely, wholeheartedly, graciously, humbly, and always. No exceptions, excuses, rationalizing, or limits. Just as He has forgiven us.
And we can try to argue with Him – “But God, she (he) has expressed no remorse and won’t even acknowledge the wrong”. And God’s response is FORGIVE. He tells us to “let it go and let Me deal with her (him). You deal with you and be right with Me. I’ll take care of her (him) as I choose.”
So it’s obvious He wants us to forgive. But what does it mean to forgive? God talks about it almost 100 times in the Bible. There are 43 mentions in the Old Testament with 4 Hebrew words: Kaphar – to cover, cancel, cleanse, appease, make atonement, be merciful, pardon, purge, put off, reconcile; Nacah – to lift, bear, burn, carry away, cast, ease, lift, pardon, spare, take away; Calach – to pardon, spare; and Callach – ready to forgive. There are also 55 mentions in the New Testament with 3 Greek words: Aphiemi – to forsake, lay aside, leave, let go, omit, send away, yield up; Apoluo – to free fully, relieve, release, dismiss, let die, pardon, depart, loose, put away, let go; and Charizomai – to pardon, rescue, deliver, freely give.
I love the definitions for forgiveness. They all represent a physical act of freeing ourselves emotionally of any hurt, anger, bitterness, offense, harshness, resentment, rejection, embarrassment, pain, and sorrow. They show us that forgiveness brings freedom!
So purge your emotional baggage, laying it aside and leaving it instead of dragging it around another day. Let go of (cancel, burn) all your reasons and excuses and emotionally pardon the offenders. Allow God to fully release the pain and dismiss the charges you hold so you can be fully free and rescued from the pit of despair that comes with holding onto your grudges. Allow God to deliver (carry) you out of the pit of self pity and bad choices into the light of His love and grace and joy.
Free yourself from the bondage of holding a grudge. Unshackle yourself from the chains of unforgiveness. Unburden yourself from the harmful effects of carrying (dragging) your anger around.
Forgive and be free. Forgive and live. Forgive and thrive.
Show your love for God by forgiving. Show the world how to walk in grace by forgiving. Live life to the fullest by forgiving.
It doesn’t matter how many days and weeks and years have gone by. Choose today to forgive and live in the present.
It’s hard, and it often takes repeated effort to truly mean it. But the decision to start is easy – do you want to stay bound up in the chains of bitterness, anger, and offense? Forgiveness is the key to opening the chains and living in freedom. Start today. Say “I forgive you” as often as it takes for you to feel the bondage (weight, hurt) lifting. If you say it often enough, it will soon penetrate the walls around your heart and break them down.
Remember I started by saying that forgiveness is all about us? That’s because forgiveness isn’t about the other person acknowledging anything, asking for forgiveness, or even trying to make it right. I often have to remind myself that the other person may not even know I am upset or may not care about the offense. So it’s my choice how I respond. Forgiveness is a choice I make for me.
God tells us to forgive because He doesn’t want us to be burdened with thoughts of payback or playback (repeating and rerunning the story). He doesn’t want us to be so weighed down in the past that we are incapable of living in, enjoying, and sharing with people in the present moment. God wants us to be ready and available to influence people, and when we refuse to forgive, we are not open to be a positive influence, an encouraging word, or an understanding ear.
God wants us to be free to love people and see people as God loves and sees them – and forgiveness allows our heart to not be polluted with things that keep us from loving and reaching out to people. Forgiveness allows us to cleanse ourselves of anything that will chase us away from God and opens us up to be available for unlimited possibilities. Forgiveness keeps us from missing the potential God has for us.
So what choice will you make today? Will you forgive?
Marie Fremin, 5/2-5/3/15
NOTE: Here is a bonus selection of material – my study I did on forgiveness years ago. It continues to be one of my favorites. Click this link for the PDF: Forgiveness.