“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.””
Matthew 18:21-35 NLT
Forgiveness is something we hear and say all the time but it is also one of the toughest things to do sometimes. It is easier to forgive certain offenses than others. It will be easier for me to forgive someone who swore at me than it would be for someone who does something that ends up tarnishing my image. We sometimes try to justify the reasons why we can’t forgive. To be honest some of the reasons seems justifiable. I won’t want to trivialise your pain. I have been hurt deeply by people so I understand the feeling of being hurt.
There was an incident that happened to me at a very young age. I grew up wanting to revenge so bad. I had everything planned out in my head. I felt justified to do it. However I realised that each time I rehearsed my revenge, there was a fresh cut and pain that came with it. I was angry at the fact that this happened and I was also angry at the way it has affected me. For over 15 years, i carried the heartache of unforgiveness around. Yes you read that right. It is a heartache. It hurts. It causes physical pain. I realised that the longer I carried this pain around, the longer I am subjecting myself to the ruling of this person or better put, the spirit behind the incident.
I was having a mental revenge rehearsal one day when the Holy Spirit interrupted my thought. He said ““But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This was a game changer for me. The word ‘if’ was imprinted deeply in my heart. I started recurring the number of times I have needed forgiveness in the past and the millions of times I will need to use Christ’s forgiveness in the future (see the opening bible text for a similar story). I realised that I would be the one to loose out if I remained in unforgiveness. I knew that the pain I cause Jesus Christ daily was far more than what these people did to me. After weighing my pain and the pain of Jesus Christ, I just had to let go. You might be saying all of these are stories and bible talks but they are true. On our own ability, we honestly can’t forgive especially if what happened was something very painful. I don’t think we can forgive without the help of the Holy Spirit. So we do need His help with this.
When Peter asked Jesus how many times we are to forgive, Jesus answered “seventy times seven!”. This is another way of saying don’t stop forgiving.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to bury my feelings as this can be very bad. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I validate your action. It means I choose not to hold them against you.
Remaining bitter isn’t going to change what happened. When I forgave, I became happier. That heartache was gone. I would like to quickly mention also that this is a process. The fact that I forgave doesn’t mean that that memory doesn’t taunt me anymore. But each time the record plays in my mind, I choose to forgive. You might have to keep doing this for a long time until you know you are free.
The bible scriptures I found about forgiveness were interesting. I discovered that God’s forgiveness towards me is based on my forgiveness towards others. That is something to think about.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32 NLT
“and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”
Matthew 6:12 NLT
“But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:15 NLT
Unforgiveness can cause anger, headache, bitterness. All of which can link to high blood pressure which further links to stroke. Depression, anxiety, fear, spiritual and physical death.
Forgiveness is more important to you than it is to the person who needs to be forgiving. It will do you good spiritually and physically to forgive. The offender is going about his/her life. But you are unable to move on with life because of unforgiveness. Don’t allow a single life event define the whole of your life. We may not be able to control everything that happens to us but we can control how we handle them. There is no way you can live a happy life with unforgiveness in you.
That anger towards your friends, kids, spouse might not be because your friend didn’t call you when planned, or because your kids spilled that hot chocolate drink on your new carpet, or because your spouse didn’t take the bin out. It could be a transferred aggression as a result of a heartache that has not be dealt with. You won’t want to start ruining your relationships because of bitterness. Stop living in the past. Remove the mask of past events and begin to enjoy the blessings and freedoms of the present.
With certain events, you need to apply caution even after you’ve forgiven. Depending on what the offense was, you might not want to expose yourself and family to that environment again. But you can still speak with that person over the phone and maintain a good distant relationship. Most importantly pray and go by the leading of the Holy Spirit.