“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You cannot get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.” Matthew 6:14 The Message Bible
Forgiveness is surrendering to Jesus our right to hold a judgement against another. While we want to be “paid back” for sins against us, we must instead let God be the judge and jury. Forgiveness in no way justifies sin or removes accountability from those who have hurt us, nor does it mean that we must act as though nothing has happened.
In any area of our heart, when holding onto unforgiveness, we are more likely to receive negative messages and our heart becomes closed to the Lord and those around us. Having a closed heart tends to leave us unable to receive what we need most, affirmation, love, positive words, comfort and forgiveness. Think of unforgiveness as a closed fist. It is as if we are shaking our fist at the one who “owes” us, demanding to receive, yet holding tightly to the very pain we want to get rid of.
Unforgiveness, criticism, bitterness, resentment, revenge and hatred are sin. They disconnect us from God and one another. God, in His great love, died for us so that we could receive and give forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us form all unrighteousness. It is our job to confess or admit our sin. The Lord does the rest, he will cleanse us from our unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment and hatred.
What does it really mean to forgive?
Forgiveness is frequently talked about in the Bible. In the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:12, it says we are to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. When we hold unforgiveness in our heart towards another, we are holding that person in debt. Most of us give evidence to our unforgiveness when we say, “You owe me an apology”, or “How could you have done this to me?” you remind the other person over and over what they have done to you? Do you rehearse speeches and create justifications as to why you have been hurt? When someone is in debt to us through unforgiveness, our heart records what the person owes. Not only is the debt stored in our heart, but so is any hurt or negative message associated with that debt. That does not go away until the debt is paid in full.
How do we do that? How do we let go?
We pray! We ask God for the grace and strength to go on and to heal. We realize forgiveness is a process. We let go of the pain and do not let our minds focus on the situation repeatedly. We accept we can only control ourselves and not others. We set healthy boundaries. We bless. We love as Christ loved us. We forgive and we accept the gift of forgiveness. We pray out loud!
Forgiveness is a choice “And when you pray, make sure you forgive the faults of others so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14 TPT
Forgiveness is a command. “But if you withhold forgiveness from others, your Father withholds forgiveness from you.” Matthew 6:15 TPT
God will accomplish forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22 states, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”. When we repent and receive God’s forgiveness for our own sins, we can more easily forgive others.
Release the debtor to God and his care. Pray His kindness will lead them to repentance and healing. See Romans 12:14-21
Bless those that have caused your hurt. 1 Peter 3:8-9 calls us to bless. “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be [courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”
What does forgiveness look and feel like?
Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you. Again, Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to you or making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. Forgiveness is a gift to yourself because it enables you to stop feeling painful feelings and pushing others away. Forgiveness frees you from anger and allows you to restore your ability to have close and satisfying relationships with God and others.
Make a choice today to cancel someone’s debt through forgiveness. Choose forgiveness, allow God to accomplish forgiveness, release the debtor and bless those who hurt you. When we do, the Lord will heal us, remove the pain and the negative messages in our heart. Then we can live freely, inherit the blessings for yourself and reconnect with God and others.