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Forgiveness, Healing

"And be ye kind one to another,
tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

(Ephesians 4:32)

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Forgiveness does not change the past


it changes the pain of the past


unlocks the door to the future.

The United States has never experienced more violence in its families in its two-hundred-year history. Renegade splinter groups spring up daily. Gangs are increasing at alarming rates. Tension between races, genders and generations is at an apex and the bar seems to rise every year. The age of offenders grows younger with every newscast.

A six-year old violently kicks and beats an infant nearly to death. A ten-year old picks up a gun and murders his father. A nineteen-year old slays his mother and is later linked to the brutal slaughter of three women in their teens. Two young men blow up a building in Oklahoma City, killing hundreds, devastating the lives of hundreds more and traumatizing a nation. Recently two high school students murdered thirteen fellow students and a teacher in Littleton, Colorado, and then committed suicide. The iniquities of the fathers are being visited upon the third and fourth generations of American families. How did we get here?

The Iniquities of the Fathers

One law of physics is that for every action there is a reaction. This was a law of God long before physicists claimed it as their own, only the dimensions of this law reach farther than the physical realm. They reverberate throughout the spiritual realm, impacting us and our families for generations.

The immutable laws of God are inescapable even if we do not believe in Him. Both the blessings and the iniquities of the fathers pass down to succeeding generations. God's provision for our iniquities and the end of passing them on to future generations has always been forgiveness—not just His forgiveness of us but our forgiveness of others.

All of the Biblical laws of God can be summed up in this:

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).

Forgiveness is
the first born child of mercy,
and mercy and love
are so entwined
in the arms of one another
that it is quite impossible
to separate them.

Romans 13 puts this into words we can even more easily understand.

"Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:8-10).

Simone Weil wrote, "Love is abdication. God is abdication". Abdication is the formal relinquishment of one's claims, rights and power, which gives us a clear picture of the love of God and the God Who is Love. Love is the dethroning of oneself, which is, among many things, the laying down of one's right, claim and power to control another's choices. For the Christian, this abdication includes relinquishing our right to personally punish others for their behavior but instead forgiving them and trusting that the God of relinquishment will mete out the discipline that only He deems necessary and good for all concerned.

Abdication takes nothing away from the majesty and glory of a holy, righteous and just God. It is inherent in His nature and distinguishes Him from all other gods in the hearts and minds of man. Jehovah, the only True God and Creator of the universe, could not be holy, just and righteous without abdication. And neither can we.

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour" (Ephesians 4:29-5:2).

Love does no wrong—no harm to a neighbor. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law! The evidence of our love for God is manifested in our love for others. These concepts are well worth pausing to think about.

Love abdicates.
God abdicates.

Simone Weil

Forgiveness is the first born child of mercy, and mercy and love are so entwined in the arms of one another that it is quite impossible to separate them. Without them, we would be doomed forever.

"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness" (Lam-
entations 3:21-23).

And we cannot leave grace out of this equation. Philip Yancey wrote in his book, What's So Amazing About Grace?, that the "gospel of grace begins and ends with forgiveness". Without forgiveness there would be no such thing as God's grace. Grace and forgiveness are inseparable. And we are called to extend this very same amazing grace to others.

When we walk in God's law of love and forgiveness, it will overflow into all of our relationships, and the redemptive love and grace of God will be freely imparted from our hearts to our family and friends as well as to a desperately needy world.

Every believer needs the merciful, forgiving love of God forged into the core of his or her own character.

" . . . no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love" (1 Corinthians 13:3 The Message).

"Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seeks its own [way], is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails . . . " (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

If there is a little sweat trickling down your temples about now—
if questions are swirling around in your heart and mind—be encouraged. You will find help here—practical Biblical help and healing for the dilemma of all the hurt, anger, bitterness and disappointment you don't know what to do with.

To err is human.
To forgive is divine.

Alexander Pope

Forgiveness is the Linchpin of the Gospel

Forgiveness is the linchpin of the gospel. Forgiveness is the Good News. Jesus hung upon the cross two thousand years ago to purchase our forgiveness, to deliver us out of the darkness of an unforgiving world and to extend His blessings to a thousand generations to our families and to a world lying in darkness.

" . . . without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22).

"For He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemp- tion, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13-14).

The redemptive work of the cross did not end with the death and resurrection of the Lord. As His disciples, He calls us to be redemptive agents of Himself by offering this same forgiveness as we loose those who have offended us from our judgments against them.

Revenge is natural.
Forgiveness is supernatural.

Paul Carlin

The Good Fruit of Forgiveness

We see in the table below just a few of the jewel-like fruit of forgiveness. All of these are enhancing to and reflective of our relationships with God and one another.

unconditional love mercy grace
patience freedom kindness
humility respect honor
gratefulness joy acceptance
compassion faithfulness flexibility
gentleness peace  integrity
authority meekness wisdom
The Evil Fruit of Unforgiveness

In the second table below we see just a few of the poisonous fruit of unforgiveness in no particular order of importance. They are all devastating to our relationships with God and one another.

bitterness unbelief impatience
passivity chronic unmet needs resentment
rebellion tension hopelessness
judgmentalism self-pity anxiety
gossip self-righteousness punishing silence
broken relationships chronic frustration selfishness 
rejection manipulation addictions
racism pride deception
perfectionism criticism negativism
adultery legalism rigidity
legalism rage verbal abuse
physical abuse sarcasm divorce
control hatred whining
backbiting blame jealousy
loneliness isolation despair
some sickness some depression shallowness 
defensiveness in relationships withholding of love and affection lying to self others and God 
insensitivity to self, others and God lack of awareness of self, others and God dishonesty with self, others and God

These are not endearing qualities nor are they easy to live with in ourselves or others. Unforgiveness is fertile soil for their propagation and growth.

God's love and forgiveness are our only hope and remedy for a broken heart, a shattered life and a wicked world.

is love's toughest work.

Paul Carlin

What We Give Out Comes Back to Us in Abundance

One apple seed produces one tree. That tree bears hundreds of apples. Each one of those apples contains numerous seeds. The single seed that produced one tree produces thousands of seeds, all potential trees, each capable of producing millions more seeds. The same can be said about judgment and unforgiveness, and its consequences are devastating. Our unforgiveness doesn't just remain static. It grows and flows and overflows into every area of our lives, affecting every one of our relationships. Whether it be mercy or judgment, we will daily see our attitudes returning to us through the attitudes of others.

Mercy is the impetus for forgiveness and judgment is the antithesis of both.

Jesus said, "And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merci- ful, just as your Father is merciful. And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be con- demned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure [of judgment, mercy or forgiveness] it will be measured to you in return." (Luke 6:31-38).

1 Corinthians 6:1-6 tell us that there is an appropriate time and an appropriate way for the church to render judgment. Harsh condemnation, criticism and contentiousness out of an unforgiving attitude are obviously not an appropriate form of judgment. This kind of judgment is rendered irresponsibly and legalistically at one's will.

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul speaks of a wise, loving, gracious and judicious judgment in the settlement of violations and differences. All Christians are called to this kind of mediatory process when needed. Determining certain acts and behaviors to be sin is not a wrong kind of judgment. It is the attitude of heart with which we make our pronouncements that determines their appropriateness, and be assured that we can never fool God when we render our judgments with the smile and kiss of a Judas.

Love never fails. Discipline in love is sometimes needed in the church. And so is honest and loving communication. This kind of judgment is rendered in love and grace. There is an example of biblical discipline further down in the article.

What we give out comes back to us. When we forgive, we receive forgiveness. When we judge harshly, maliciously, critically and unforgivingly, judgment confronts us harshly, critically and unforgivingly at every turn, from the rude person at the check
out stand in the grocery store to generations of broken family relationships (Luke 6:36-37). We reap a bountiful harvest of whatever we sow (Galatians 6:7-8), even in our relationship with the Lord.

"With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright; with the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward" (Psalm 18:25-26).

Our children learn from
what is true about us,
not from what we
want them to believe about us.

It's important to realize that there is no such thing as a secret. We may think that we are covering up our inner attitudes and lies, but we don't just live in the physical world. We also live in a profoundly real spiritual world. Our children are particularly sensitive to us. And they are very "tuned in" to the spiritual world. At some level, our hidden attitudes and motives are being communicated all the time. We may think we are successfully covering them up with a pleasant smile, but we cannot prevent them from being discerned by our children or anyone else.

We may fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but we will never fool all of the people all of the time. We cannot bear fruit from any place other than the soil of our hearts.

" . . . 'Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy [pretense]. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known'" (Luke 12:1-2).

"Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound, and the winged creature will make the matter known" (Ecclesiastes 10:20 NAS).

Our children learn from what is true about us, not from what we want them to believe about us. Newborn babies are terribly frightened when things are volatile around them. How can you tell? By their screams! Even young babies sense when they are wanted or unwanted, loved or unloved, when we are stressed or relaxed, and they begin to manifest very early their responses to life based on what they instinctively know about us. When harsh words fly, they become agitated. When we cuddle, smile and coo to them they nuzzle in and smile and coo back. Our responsibility in our relationship to God is never more evident than in the love and care of our children. Except for and because of our relationship with Him, there is nothing we do that is more important than how we conduct ourselves in our relationships with our spouses and children. It will impact them and the generations that follow for good or for evil.

From the most subtle tension or fear to blatant anger and strife, our spirits impact our children's spirits. When things are unpleasant too much of the time without the reinforcement of love, smiles and comfort, many children give up and withdraw into a silent place inside themselves, never to come out again. Many others grow up angry at the world and enclose themselves behind walls. When trust is broken too often without restitution, the potential for intimacy is lost—sometimes forever. We need to remember that we are spiritual beings and so are our children. They are in tune with all of us, but especially with our spirits. Forgiveness is our only hope. Forgiveness is living the gospel where the rubber meets the road.

It is easy to see our strengths and weaknesses, our love and rejection, our forgiveness and our bitterness developing in our children as they grow up.

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice. 

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with 
acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.


As parents, when we harbor bitterness in our hearts toward those who injure us, our children, neighbors and associates will return the same into our bosoms through many grievous offenses and the same will happen to them. Are we not seeing this phenomenon in the world today?

We do not live in a vacuum. The law of generations demands that our iniquities be passed down to the third and fourth generations. The law of love and grace begins and ends with forgiveness.

The cycle of destruction is broken through the grace of love, forgiveness and repentance. Philip Yancey wrote in What's So Amazing About Grace that "grace is the only force in the universe powerful enough to break the chains that enslave generations. Grace alone melts ungrace". By the spiritual laws of the universe, forgiveness, the greatest expression of grace, or unforgiveness, which Yancey calls "ungrace", determines our destiny and the destiny of those we love. We must, as Yancey wrote, defy "the natural law of retribution and fairness" to free us and the generations that follow us.

Forgiveness is the soil of unconditional love,
freedom and
reaping the blessings
of the fathers.
Unforgiveness is the soil
of judgment and
reaping the iniquities
of the fathers.

Forgiveness unlocks prison doors and sets us free to be trans- formed into the image of Jesus. It does the same for those forgiven. Though usually a process and not an overnight event, its opens the doors to reconciliation and restoration of the very things we long for. It also opens doors for the Lord to satisfy and fulfill our quiet longings and painful unmet needs in ways we never dreamed possible.

Our families, our nation and our world desperately need to see the redemptive mercy and forgiveness of the Lord through His living, breathing body—through you and me. So do we!

Matthew 18

Matthew 18 is the consummate, definitive chapter in the Bible on the necessity of forgiving one another. Matthew Henry's Commen- tary says that the entire chapter of Matthew 18 is about forgiveness, so we must view all things said there through that prism. We will start with verses 15-17.

"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (vv. 15-17).

If someone has offended us, it is important to go to them. If they refuse to acknowledge their wrong, we go back to them and take someone with us. If they are still resistant to restitution and reconciliation, then we are to count them a heathen.

I particularly like Matthew Henry's comments on verse 17.

"If he will not hear the church, will not stand to their award, but persists in the wrong he has done you, and proceeds to do you further wrong, let him be to you as a heathen man, and a publican; take the benefit of the law against him, but let that always be the last remedy; appeal not to the courts of justice till you have first tried all other means to compromise the matter in variance. Or you may, if you will, break off your friendship and familiarity with him; though you must by no means study revenge, yet you may choose whether you will have any dealings with him, at least, in such a way as may give him an opportunity of doing the like again. You would have healed him, would have preserved his friendship, but he would not, and so has forfeited it. If a man cheat and abuse me once, it is his fault; if twice, it is my own."

Mercy is the impetus
for forgiveness
judgment is the antithesis
of both.

V. 18

"Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

a) According to Thayer's Lexicon, to bind means to put under obligation, used of the law, duty, etc. (Thayer #1210). This is what we do with unforgiveness. We hold people to a rigid standard of ought to's, must's and should's. When they fail to measure up, we bind them by our judgments and close our hearts to them.

There are certainly lots of ought to's, must's and should's that are not only appropriate but mandatory. A father should not molest his children. A mother ought not leave her helpless children unattend- ed. A young boy must not lie to his parents. A young girl should not abuse her little brother. And, yes! In an ideal world, mothers and fathers should nurture and care for their children, husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church and wives should respect their husbands as unto the Lord. When these things go awry, which they are prone to do in a fallen world, it is important for our own well-being as well as the offenders' to forgive those who have committed such things against us.

It should be mentioned that a legalistic, demanding attitude of calling in even godly "obligations" is rarely successful and mostly resented. It is love and grace and forgiveness and truth that never fail.

b) Debt as used in the following passages of Matthew 18 also means to owe, to be under obligation (ought to, must, should), to be bound. It's meaning is similar to a).

c) "Binding" and "debt" are unforgiveness words. They are words that unremittingly hold others to our expectations and demands— even to Biblical ideals all the while ignoring them ourselves. Unforgiveness and resentment choke off the breath of Life, leaving little or no room for change in us or those around us.

d) Loosing is a forgiveness word. (See v. 27). One of the Greek words for redemption also means loosing. Loosing someone from our expectations and demands is not giving up on them, it is making way for God's grace to meet our needs and to change us and those around us.

The Power of Loosing/Forgiveness

One testimony of the power of loosing and forgiveness stands out in my mind above many outstanding ones. It took place in Northern India. The tent overflowed that day with ministers and disciples from all over India. The faces in the audience reflected their hunger and eagerness to hear God's truth from the American ministers. As I stood at the podium, translators of the three major languages of India stood beside me. In the audience others translated into numerous dialects. I trembled from head to toe. Would this teaching impact the people of India in the same way it does my western culture? I quickly learned that people are the same everywhere, no matter what language we speak, the religion or non-religion we have, the position we hold, or the color of our skin. Relationships are of central importance to everyone, especially to believers. And the truth's of God's Word are true for everyone everywhere.

Relationships are central
in importance to everyone,
no matter what
language we speak,
the religion or non-religion
we are, the position we hold
or what color our skin—
especially to believers.

A few minutes into my message, I came to the place where I compare unforgiveness to putting someone in prison (Matthew 18:28-30). I gave the following example from my life:

Over the years I had formed many judgments against my father. One afternoon I made a list of every one I could remember and prayed over them. Tearfully I repented of my judgments against my father and forgave him for his debts against me, both real and imagined.

At that time, my father had not been in church for over twenty years. I had shared my faith in Jesus Christ with him, but I had never invited him to attend church with me. Much to my surprise, less than one week after I repented and forgave him (without saying a word to him), my father spontaneously visited my church even though I had not invited him. The church I attended at that time was very much off the beaten path. It was not a Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening meeting. It was on a Thursday evening, an unusual night for a meeting at the church. Dad had to go way out of his way to get there.

Sitting in my seat, I gazed across the room as I watched him come through the door and move through the crowd in my direction. "Dad, what are you doing here?", I asked. "How did you know there was a meeting tonight?" I asked. His only explanation was that he just decided to come to church. My father never knew I had him held prisoner. My repentance of my judgments against my father and my forgiveness of him caused the doors of his prison and mine to swing open wide. My father walked out free. He attended church regularly from that day to the day of his death.

A year or so later, I took my father out to lunch. As we began to eat, he harshly criticized the way I held my knife, hurling the insult my way, "You are no daughter of mine. I ought to disown you". I said nothing in reply, but tears welled up in my eyes. Later my father said, "I deeply regret saying that to you. I am so sorry". This was a profound change for my father. Forgiveness is like dynamite. It can blast the stone away from the hardest heart.

As I related these stories about my father, a hush fell over the crowd sitting under that tent. I had their full attention. Over five hundred pairs of piercing eyes remained glued to me as each translator took his turn telling my story. Many were filled with tears.

Over five hundred
pairs of piercing eyes
remained glued to me
as each translator
took his turn telling my story.

One face stood out in the crowd. I still remember where he was sitting. He sat several rows from the front on the inside right aisle. His bald, round head, large eyes and rapt attention were riveting. At the end of the message, the pastor, Paul Pillai, gave an appeal. This man was the first to reach the altar. Immediately, the altar filled with hundreds of people. Wailing filled the tent. Tears flowed like fountains. Godly sorrow and repentance were taking place in hearts all over the room.

I could not get the man with the round, bald head and intense gaze out of my mind. Later I asked Paul about him. Paul told me this man was one of the most beloved evangelists in all of India. Thirteen years earlier, he had converted from the Sikh religion to Christian- ity. As a result of his conversion, his wife's family removed her from his home and demanded a divorce. He refused. Instead, he chose to stand for the restoration and salvation of his wife and his marriage. His wife's family repeatedly tried to kill him to free her from their union!

This man told Paul he had never realized he had judged his wife and her family for the internal and external wounds of their many persecutions against him. He had felt justified for his bitterness and woundedness. God convicted him that he had been holding his wife and her family prisoners to his hurt and bitterness. He repented and forgave them all. End of story, right? Wrong!

Six months later, Paul passed through town. I was describing what had happened that day in India to a group of friends standing around Paul. "Anne," he exclaimed, "I cannot believe I haven't told you this until just now. That man's marriage is restored. His wife gave her life to Christ, and she is now an even more radical evangelist than he. She runs up and down the streets, knocking on doors and telling people about the Lord."

This is a true story and, though often very mysterious to me, God's ways are faithful and true. And they are so powerful! We clearly see the principle of binding and loosing illustrated here. They are corroborated in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 (AMP).

"If you forgive anyone anything, I too forgive that one; and what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sakes in the presence [and with the approval] of Christ (the Messiah), To keep Satan from getting the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his wiles and intentions."

Your forgiveness of another opens the door to God's forgiveness of them as well. This alone is a powerful and important truth, yet there is an additional powerful and important truth in these verses. When we walk in forgiveness of others, Satan can gain no advan- tage over us. The principle is clear. What is good and excellent for you and me is good and excellent for others and what is good for others is good for you and me.

VV. 19-20

"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three have gathered in my name, there I am in their midst."

This is another powerful truth that validates the previous truths. When we agree on earth it is done in heaven. Two or more can agree for God's best or the devil's worst. It is to some degree up to us. This is why the mischief of gossip is so dangerous.

Peter was like most of us.
He wanted to know just how far this forgiveness thing goes.

VV. 21-22

"Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said unto him, 'I do not say unto you seven times, but up to seventy times seven'."

Peter asked the million dollar question. Like us, he wanted to know just how far this forgiveness thing goes. Just exactly, Lord, how many times do I have to forgive jerks, idiots and vicious people? I have asked the Lord many times, "How many times do I forgive someone who continues to abuse me and demonstrates no desire, willingness, need or ability to change?"

The word "seventy" is an eternal word. It implies forever. In other words there is no end to forgiving one another. Jesus cut Peter no slack. "Forever, Peter. Forever." His answer to me is the same. "Forever, Anne. Forever".

Misbeliefs/False Beliefs about Forgiveness:

Forever is a long time. We have many misbeliefs and blockages which hinder our forgiveness of others one time, much less living a lifetime lifestyle of forgiveness. Let's look at some of the most prevalent.

1. We falsely believe that forgiveness is saying the wrong someone did is right. It is not. Instead it is saying, "I'll let God be your judge". Forgiveness does not let someone who has wronged you off the hook with God. It lets YOU off the hook with God.

2. We falsely believe that forgiveness is overlooking or ignoring an offense. It is not. It is resolving it, either with the one who offended us or within ourselves with God through forgiveness.

3. We falsely believe that forgiveness means we cannot express
our feelings, desires and needs. It does not. When we use "I" messages instead of "you" messages we can express all of them. For instance, if I say "You make me so angry", I am blaming you for my anger. If I say instead, "I feel angry with you when you
. . . ", I am taking responsibility for my feelings instead of blaming you for them. At the same time I am communicating what I feel angry about. When I say, "I need a hug", I am taking respons- ibility for getting my needs met. When I say, "You never hug me", I am blaming you for not reading my mind. When I say "I want a new putter, or a new drill for my birthday" instead of saying "You never give me what I want for my birthday", I am expressing my desires instead of accusing you of failing to meet them.

4. We falsely believe that forgiveness means we have to agree with one another. It does not. We can disagree on many things and still have a close relationship. It is important, however, that we agree on the essential issues of life before we enter into the possibility of a marriage relationship or any other covenental/ contractual commitment. It is especially essential for both to establish up front that Jesus is Lord of all parties involved. Things of this magnitude need to be evident from the beginning—way before we become emotion- ally and contractually involved. And not just in words but by the confirmation of people who know our potential partners well.

I am a widow. I have many wonderful women friends. My deep connection with them has been built upon praying together over many years. I do not believe it is possible to have the kind of trust and closeness I have with my friends without the common ground of a deep commitment to the Lord. What I am trying to say here is that, as Christians, this is one thing we need to agree on to have meaningful, fulfilling relationships. And certainly, if all of us did not understand the importance of forgiveness, my friends and I would not still be growing in our relationships with one another. We have truly been knit together through our relationship with Jesus Christ and the intimacy of praying together for many years.

I do have relationships with non-believers, but they are not at all the same quality of intimacy as my relationships with my committed believing friends because they simply cannot be.

5. We falsely believe that unforgiveness gives us control over a person or situation. It does not. It only makes resolution and
closeness impossible.

We have many
misbeliefs and blockages
about forgiveness.

6. We falsely believe that forgiveness means we have to try to have an intimate relationship with those who continually hurt us. It does not unless, of course, the Lord clearly impresses us differently.

I remind you again what Matthew Henry said about Matthew 18:15- 17, regarding those who refuse to repent and make restitution for their offenses against us, "If he will not hear the church, will not stand to their award, but persists in the wrong he has done you, and proceeds to do you further wrong, let him be to you as a heathen man, and a publican; take the benefit of the law against him, but let that always be the last remedy; appeal not to the courts of justice till you have first tried all other means to compromise the matter in variance. Or you may, if you will, break off your friendship and familiarity with him; though you must by no means study revenge, yet you may choose whether you will have any dealings with him, at least, in such a way as may give him an opportunity of doing the like again. You would have healed him, would have preserved his friendship, but he would not, and so has forfeited it. If a man cheat and abuse me once, it is his fault; if twice, it is my own."

My own question for you is this. How are we to treat heathens? I believe we are to love them as Christ loves them. Are we supposed to be yoked with them? No, not according to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. Unless, of course, we are already yoked with them in marriage. Paul addresses this sticky question in 1 Corinthians 9. I'll leave this one for you to search out for yourself should you so desire.

We are not bound
to trust an enemy;
but we are bound
to forgive him.

Thomas Watson
Died 1680

Relationships are based on trust. We are commanded to love everyone. We are not commanded to trust everyone. The Lord loves us all, but he does not reveal Himself to us all at once. He unfolds Himself in His word to us as we prove trustworthy. We should be equally judicious.

Jesus' love for those around Him was equal, yet He had different levels of closeness in His relationships. His closest and most important relationship was with His Father, as should be ours. John seems to have been his second closest relationship and Peter and James were on the third tier of relationship with Him. The fourth tier of closeness would have been the remaining nine disciples and probably Lazarus, Mary and Martha, as well as the women mentioned in Luke 8:2-3. The fifth tier was most likely the seventy disciples. And the sixth tier was the multitudes.

Jesus knew he had Judas in His midst but he also knew he was untrustworthy. There is no evidence that Jesus was ever close to him. Likewise, Jesus never trusted nor entrusted himself to the Scribes and Pharisees. Shockingly (to us and to them), in John 8:44 he proclaimed them to be sons of the devil.

We have all been victimized, some of us more than others.

7. We falsely believe that forgiveness means there will be no consequences to those who have wronged us. It does not. The desire to see someone punished, however, is strong evidence of unrelenting bitterness and unforgiveness. It is a spiritual law that everyone reaps what they sow. No exceptions. When the Lord chastens and disciplines, however, it is always with the intention of redemption. When we punish, it inevitably ends up in destruction.

Corrie ten Boom left us a stunning example of forgiveness. Her sister was murdered by a Nazi in a German concentration camp.
By God's grace she was able to forgive him. She prayed for him for many years. Long after World War II ended, this man came to see her at a meeting where she was speaking. He had become a Chris- tian. After the meeting he came to her in tearful remorse and begged for her forgiveness. She, of course, had long ago forgiven him.

We may think we can never rise to Corrie ten Boom's level of maturity in our walk, but—though it will bring a flood of tears—it
is precisely these kinds of steps of faith that bring us into peace, restoration and greater maturity. God's grace will enable us.

8. We have all been victimized in many ways. Ridicule, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, ritual abuse, both private and public humiliation, racism, discrimination and intimidation are prevalent in every society. These offenses victimize us, but they don't have to make victims of us for life. Those who have offended us may remain stuck in their abusive ways, but when we begin to forgive, we are freed from the judgments and violations of others.

John Piper wrote of forgiveness in his book Future Grace that the issue of releasing grudges is an issue of faith in God's promises of the future grace—the future grace [to us] of judgment on the offender. If we believe God's promise, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" (Romans 12:19), then we will not belittle God with our inferior efforts to improve upon his justice. We will leave the matter with him and live in the freedom of love toward our enemy—whether the enemy repents or not.

Unforgiven victimization by others ends up enslaving us to an attitude of victimization, powerlessness, loneliness, isolation, failure and often, vengefulness. As we forgive, God transforms us from victims to overcomers—from wounded, ineffective people to redemptive agents of His loving Hand. We are set free from those who have wounded us to become healers of the wounded.

9. We also falsely believe that unforgiveness will protect us from victimization—that if we hold onto our anger, bitterness and unforgiveness toward someone who has hurt us, it will protect us from further hurt. It will not. It probably makes us even more vulnerable to being victimized again.

VV. 23-24

"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents."

Ten thousand talents was equivalent to close to a billion dollars in today's money. Obviously this is an amount impossible for all but a very few people in the world to pay. Of course this slave could not pay such an huge sum! It was ridiculous and irrational to even say he would.

Jesus used this outrageous amount of debt to tell Peter and all those standing around him that we owe a debt we can never pay, even though many of us spend our lives trying. Once we relinquish ourselves in total surrender to the Lord, He forgives our debt.

Apart from the Lord, we are spiritual paupers. Until we realize this we will be spiritual runts.

Apart from the Lord,
we are spiritual paupers.
Until we realize this we will
be spiritual pygmies.

V. 25

"But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made."

When we cannot pay our debts, we are not the only one who suffers. Our family is thrown into slavery or debtor's prison with us. Translated from parable to reality, this means when we have not surrendered our all to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, including our bitterness, unforgiveness and right to judge anyone and everyone, all of those in our circle suffer, especially those we love and care the most about.

This has nothing to do with whether we are good people or not. To consider morality and immorality the crux of our great debt to the Lord is to miss the greater truth. It is our claim to our right to our "selves" that is the great issue between us and God. The core of sin is making ourselves the center of life rather than allowing the Lord that place. All sin is the fruit of this root. This is the crime that has created the great debt we can never pay—our claim to our right to ourselves. And this slave is asserting that right to Jesus, even as and because he promises to pay his unpayable debt!

All sin is rooted in making ourselves the center of life.
This is the crime that has created the great debt
we can never pay—
our claim to our right
to ourselves.

V. 26

"The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything."

The average salary of a slave in those days was $10-20 a day. It was laughable—no arrogant—even delusional—for this slave to think he could ever repay his enormous debt, yet somewhere lurking in all of us is the belief that we can somehow compensate God—make it up to Him—for our weaknesses, failures, sins and, yes, our "self"- ishness.

This is certainly a picture of the debt every lost person owes God until he accepts the redemption of Jesus Christ, which cannot be purchased for any amount of money, good intentions or good works.

V. 27

"And the Lord of that slave felt compassion and released [loosed] him and forgave him the debt."

We learn from this verse that forgiveness is conceived in and born from the womb of the Lord's compassion, and when we are forgiven, we are loosed from our great debt of Sin.

V. 28

"But the slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii [one day's pay]; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe."

The one who had been forgiven the enormous debt of one billion dollars refused to forgive the debtor who owed him one day's pay. We are shocked at his behavior, yet the same can be said for us. We are born again into the kingdom of God because we accept the forgiveness of a great debt we owe God. We then often turn around and refuse to forgive the debts [ought to's, musts and shoulds] of loved ones, friends, leaders, political groups, ethnic groups, races, etc.. We have no right to sneer at this slave. Without a doubt, he is us!

When we refuse to forgive the debts of another—our own particular set of ought to's, must's and should's—when we demand that payment be made, metaphorically, we are choking the life out of the one we refuse to forgive.

V. 29

"So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'"

These are the very words the one who had been forgiven the great debt said to the Lord (v. 26), and the Lord answered his request, yet he refused to forgive his fellow slave, the very thing he had asked for and received from the Lord. And it was only a puny one-day's pay!

That dear woman was
bound in my memory as a fool, yet God had done
great things in her life.

V. 30

"He was unwilling, however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed."

Remember, Jesus is using the form of a parable here. He is using a story to illustrate spiritual truths. When we refuse to forgive, we throw people into our prison and we throw away the key.

I remember one woman in particular I had judged for my perception of her as legalistic and phony. That perception of her remained as my one decision about who she was. She was held prisoner to that decision in the prison of my mind. Years later I ran into her. I was surprised, delighted and ashamed. She was not the woman I remembered at all. Just like me, she had grown in the grace of the Lord.

There is another important point to be made here. When people were taken prisoner in the Bible, they were always bound. The same is true today. Prisoners are handcuffed. So we see the principle that what we bind on earth is bound in heaven. That dear woman was bound in my memory as a fool, yet it hadn't bound her from God's grace. She had walked in love for me. Consequently my judgments had no impact on her, and God had done great things in her life, molding and shaping her into His image. How dare I make such judgments!

There are those, however, who are just as angry and bitter and unforgiving as I was at that time. My key to the prison was just one more that kept them locked away in darkness, wrath and bitterness. Or, my key may be the very one that opens opens the prison door for them. Which will it be for you?

We see this same principle in the following verses:

"A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contention [judgments] are like the bars of a castle" (Proverbs 18:19).

Our judgments are like the bars of a castle! And the bad news continues.

"If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained" (John 20:23).

Please stop and take this in. This level of forgiveness is personal and has nothing to do with God's overall vertical forgiveness of Sin—God to man—for either the forgivor or the offender. That forgiveness is forever. It is the horizontal—human being to human being—forgiveness of which I speak.

We find this principle at the end of the Lord's prayer. "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV).

If I refuse to forgive the sins of others against me, plain and simple, the Lord will not forgive me. I am still saved and forgiven eternally, but life will not go well for me until I begin the journey of  forgiveness. And there's more. Those sins become a stumbling block [and occasion for offense] for both of us.

"Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block [a cause for offense] in a brother's way" (Romans 14:13).

This scripture expresses the same sentiment as John 20:23. When we judge someone, unless they are more mature than we are, we are giving them cause to be offended and to stumble. I know I feel offended when I think I am being judged wrongly. I have to really watch my own attitude when something like this happens to me.

Our judgments are like
the bars of a castle.

(Proverbs 18:19)

From my own experience, it seems Jesus is saying that our unfor- giveness will cause the sins of others to disturb and upset us until we forgive them. When we forgive them, we are free of the torment of unforgiveness.

Now let's return to Matthew 18.

V. 31

"So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened."

When others see that we are filled with bitterness, vengeance and unforgiveness, they need to tell the Lord about it. They need to pray about it. And the Lord will hear.

This is always the best recourse for those who are in the middle. It is not easy, but do your best to be supportive and remain neutral. Pray for all concerned.

If I find myself in the middle of two friends who are squabbling I tell them both how much I love them, and, after all efforts at peacemaking have failed, I tell them that I do not want to be in the middle.

Having our pain acknowledged by another makes an enormous  difference. I usually say something like, "I hear that you are upset, and I do understand." Don't however, become offended too. And don't repeat to one what the other has said! Stay out of the middle!!! It's a no-win position. And by all means take it to the Lord in prayer often.

VV. 32-33

"Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you."

We learn from this verse that unforgiveness is wickedness. And we also see that Jesus equated forgiveness with mercy. Now we have three attributes of forgiveness. Compassion, loosing and mercy are all part and parcel of forgivenessqualities which are not natural to most of us. We like to hold onto things, falsely and stupidly— evilly—believing that we are making people pay with our stubborn anger, bitterness and resentment. We fail to realize that we are paying a high price ourselves for holding onto our right to punish others for their sins against us.

When we forgive,
we are free of the torment
of unforgiveness.

VV. 34-35

"And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

The punishment for unforgiveness is to be turned over to the torturers. Bitterness and unforgiveness are cruel tyrants that viciously turn against us. Our attempts to punish and make those who have hurt us pay result in our own torment.

Job 21:23-25 in the New English Version says, “Some men stay healthy till the day they die . . . others have no happiness at all; they live and die with bitter hearts”.

John wrote that fear has torment (1 John 4:18). In the hierarchy of emotions, fear is the ogre beneath anger and the force beneath fear is a sense of powerlessness and helplessness. But we have the power and forgiveness of God if only we will take the first small steps toward forgiving those who have wounded us most.

When we cannot forgive we live in bitterness, fear, anger and torment. Forgiveness empowers us to conquer them all.

In the hierarchy of emotions, fear is the force beneath anger and powerlessness is the driving force beneath fear.
Forgiveness empowers us to conquer them all!

God's chastening and discipline get our attention. They shake us out of our passivity and stubbornness. Even so, God's vengeance is kinder and better than ours. Judgment from God in this life is always meant for redemption and restoration, not permanent destruction.

Certainly, the good news is that God will work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). God continues to work to rectify my past destructiveness, in me as well as in those I have harmed. We all pay one way or another! Still, I endure until His restoration is complete in my life and in the lives of those I have harmed.

God's chastening
and discipline
get our attention.
They shake us out of our passivity and stubbornness.

We Reap the Crop We Sow

It is inevitable. We will reap what we sow. Once again we see that what we dish out comes flying back in our faces. Our unforgiveness leads to our own torment, which makes for a very unhappy life for us and those around us.

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit  shall from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8).

Sow mercy and it returns to you multiplied. So judgment and it will be poured into your lap. By our standard of measure it will be measured to us in return. Brrrr! It sends cold chills up and down
my spine.

"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:36-38).

Those things we judge in others we turn around and do ourselves. Those things we forgive in others will not rule our lives. The next verse tells us why.

"Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things" (Romans 2:1-2).

Those things we judge in others we turn around
and do ourselves.
(Romans 2:1-2)

Many times I have criticized someone for doing something foolish and found myself doing the same thing moments later. This phen- omenon can occur when we judge others for serious violations as well.

I know a Bible teacher who frequently spoke harshly and con- temptuously about Christians who fell into sexual sin. Years later, this much admired Bible teacher had an affair with a married person. The affair resulted in two divorces and their relationship ended.

To teach or say that having an affair is sinful is not judgment. In fact, it is appropriate to teach others that such behavior is wrong. To be harsh and severe in our attitudes toward another for their sin, however, is wrong and will only close the door to ministry in that person's life.

God's word teaches that He Himself will condemn those who condemn us—I believe until that one repents.

"'No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me' declares the LORD" (Isaiah 54:17 NAS).

In his book, In the Grip of Grace, Max Lucado wrote, “It is our job to hate the sin. But it’s God’s job to deal with the sinner. God has called us to despise evil, but he’s never called us to despise the evildoer.

“Standing next to all the Mussolinis and Hitlers and [Jeffrey] Dahmers of the world” continues Lucado, “we boast, ‘Look, God! Compared to them, I’m not too bad.’

“But that’s the problem. God doesn’t compare us to them. They aren’t the standard. God is. And compared to him . . . ‘There is no one who does anything good’” (Romans 3:12).

We all fall short of the glory of God, and that is the standard (Romans 3:23).

"Do not judge before the right time; wait until the Lord comes" (1 Corinthians 4:5).

What a blessing of the Lord to know that He is our defender, vindicator and Redeemer!

The Unforgiveness We Hold against Another Will Block Answers to our Prayers in the Areas of our Judgment

Once I began to study forgiveness, I began to notice that those I loved and yet judged never changed in their interactions with me in spite of my prayers for them. It was as if the heavens were as brass. This is because my own unforgiveness was blocking the answers to my prayers.

"And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you Your transgressions" (Mark 11:25).

"If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering" (Matthew 5:23-24).

I've often thought about the stoning of Stephen. As he was being dying, he looked up into heaven and began to plead with the Lord not to lay the sins of his murderers to their account. Paul watched as his martyrdom took place. I wonder if Paul would have become the man of God he was had it not been for the forgiveness of Stephen. In the sovereignty of God, I'm certain he would have, but in the sovereignty of God Paul was present at the stoning of Stephen.

It is not that others cannot change without our forgiveness. They may change, but it will not be because of prayers coming from our unforgiving hearts. It will be because of God's sovereign and merciful will in their lives.

God Calls us to be Ministers of Reconciliation

The real point here is that God wants forgiveness and reconciliation in both directions, and He asks us to take the responsibility for both. When someone offends us, He asks us to go to them and reconcile. When we offend someone, He asks us again to go to them and reconcile.

When someone offends us,
He asks us to go to them
and reconcile.
When we offend someone,
He asks us again to go to them
and reconcile.

"Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of  reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not count- ing their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

Just as Christ does not count our trespasses against us, it is clear that we are not to count the trespasses of others against us. He would not ask us to do the impossible.

"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).

There is no possibility for God's unconditional love to blossom and bloom in the desert of our souls without the mercy of forgiveness, for even He could not love us without it. And neither can we love unconditionally without it.

Steps out of Bitterness

1. The process of forgiveness begins with a decision. It may take time to grieve and wrestle with God over the decision to forgive the most serious offenses. The decision is usually easier to make when we see what unforgiveness is costing us. Whether done face-to-face or between us and the Lord, please remember that forgiveness has a powerful restorative effect in every circumstance.

The decision to forgive
is usually easier to make
when we see
what unforgiveness
is costing us.

Also remember, forgiveness is not saying what someone did or said was right. Forgiveness is saying, "I'll let God straighten this out".

When we try to "set someone straight" regarding an offense, unless they themselves are humble and open, we build walls and harm the possibility of reconciliation. When God straightens us out, He builds a bridge. His rectification is always for the purpose of redemption and restoration. When you go to someone with an offence, go as a bridge-builder. Go in humility. And remember, it's a process and sometimes takes time, but love never fails! (1 Corinthians 13).

2. Proverbs 14:30 says the heart knows its own bitterness. Pray for the Lord to expose anything hidden. This is not some mystical experience. Bitterness prevents us from walking in all that God has for us. God will not keep the stumbling blocks hidden from us, because He wants us and those around us to walk in all of His blessings.

3. Repent of each judgment/unforgiveness, especially toward parents and other authority figures. Ephesians 6:2-3 says it will not go well all the days of the lives of those who do not honor their parents. Forgiveness is not saying what our parents did was right. Forgive- ness is loosing them from the prison of our unforgiveness into God's healing grace and love. To forgive them is what it means to love and honor them.

We build walls.
God builds bridges.
Become like God.
Be a bridge builder.

4. Ask God to meet your unmet needs. Know that only He can.

Many of us have a large hole in our souls from unmet needs during critical times of development as a child. The void of love, accept- ance, nurturing, guidance, training and valuing are just a few of the longings that leave us needy people. As adults we are always searching for someone to fill up that vast hole. The problem is it is a bottomless pit. And we are usually asking the same kind of person who hurt us in the past to fill it up.

5. Make a list of those whom you have offended and go to them to ask for their forgiveness. God does miracles in the midst of these humbling times.

One important point needs to be made here. If I have judged someone secretly in my heart and they do not know it, in such cases it is best to complete the forgiveness transaction between myself and the Lord. Think how it would sound to someone to walk up to them when they are completely ignorant of my judgments against and disappointments in them and say, "Please forgive me for judging you for being a jerk." Or "I forgive you for being a jerk." Or some other offensive statement like that. It would cause more problems than it would heal. Use wisdom.

Here are some good rules of thumb. Unless there has been open conflict between you and someone else, just take it to the Lord and deal with it there. When an offense has been committed in public, then restitution needs to be made in public. When it is a private matter, keep it that way.

6. Some personalities bug us more than others. Forgive people for their personality types.

Ever notice how certain personality types bother you? I know because every now and then I run into someone I can tell is bugged by my personality. And I've occasionally run into a personality type that bugs me. In such cases, the problem is often not the other person. It is usually me. They are probably like someone who has hurt me. So we need to forgive those who annoy us and remind us of others who have annoyed us in the past, not for just their sakes but for the Lord's sake and for our sake.

We need to forgive and repent of our judgments
and prejudices against
religions, governments, leaders,
races and ethnicities.

7. We need to forgive and repent of our judgments and prejudices against religions, governments, leaders, ethnicities, tribes and races.

Just think how many wars in the world are prosecuted in the name of religion! We need to stop playing god in peoples lives, release them to the sovereignty of Almighty God and pray for them. We were all created equally . . . are loved equally . . . and are equally important to God. If there is any doubt about this, pay close attention to this verse.

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (Revelation 14:6-7).

And there is always the most famous verse in the world.

"For God so the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

8. Forgive those who die for dying and leaving us.

Little children especially don't understand the death of a parent. They often blame themselves. Forgiving them for dying is a step into healing the pain and loss.

9. Forgive those who are dead for their sins against us.

Yes, we need to forgive people who have died for their sins against us. Why? Because their sins are still impacting our lives.

10. The one we most harshly judge and is also the most difficult to forgive is ourselves. It is important that we not skip ourselves in the forgiveness process.

I have committed many wrongs. I have failed my God, my parents, my children and my friends in so many ways. I know the Lord has forgiven me. They have forgiven me, and I have finally forgiven myself. Even so, when I see how my past sins are still impacting my loved ones, I go to the Lord with my pain and sense of loss. As I pour out my tears in His presence, He heals me a little more of the pain of my own sin.

Forgiveness is not saying
what someone did to us is right. It is saying, "I'll let God straighten this out".

11. God is perfect love. He never does anything for which He needs to be forgiven, but many of us blame Him for our problems. This misplaced blame causes us to harbor resentments and out- right anger toward Him. We need to forgive Him and loose Him from our judgments for His sake and for our sake.

12. When someone asks for your forgiveness, don't brush it off, no matter how insignificant it seems to you. Next to saying, "Will you forgive me", saying, "Yes, I forgive you" is the second most difficult thing to say. Graciously and gratefully say, "Yes. Of course I forgive you". You can be sure it is very significant for them. It is also significant for us.

13. Overlooking an offense is not the same as forgiving an offense. Biblical entreaties are to be actively responded to, not passively acknowledged.

14. If someone refuses to forgive you, do not despair. When you have done all you can do to make restitution with a right heart, then you are released and forgiven by God. He will continue to work in the one who refused to forgive you.

15. Watch for "always" and "never" words. For example, "You never remember my birthday!" "You always embarrass me in front of my friends!" They are a sure sign of unforgiveness. It is important to go back to the root of the unforgiveness (parents and authority figures who did the same things to you) and forgive them first and then forgive the present situation.

16. Watch for statements such as "You are just like your ________ (mother or father)". This is another sure sign of unforgiveness. Again, it is important to go back to the root of unforgiveness as suggested in # 15.

16. Let your tears flow. This is a very important part of the healing of unforgiveness.

When someone
asks for your forgiveness,
don't brush it off,
no matter how insignificant
it may seem to you.
Graciously and gratefully say, "Yes. Of course I forgive you".
You can bet it is very significant to them.
And it is very significant
for you.

Asking for the Forgiveness of Another

There is a right way and a wrong way to ask for forgiveness. Try saying the following words out loud and see which is the most difficult?

 1) I'm sorry.

 2) Will you forgive me?

The #1 hardest words in the world to say are, "Will you forgive me?".

It isn't enough to say I'm sorry. Saying "I'm sorry" allows me to remain in control. Asking the offended one for their forgiveness gives them control over the decision, something human beings hate above almost anything.

It is also important to specifically acknowledge our offense when asking for forgiveness.

The most freeing words in the world are, "I was wrong. Will you forgive me?". They are freeing to the one saying them, and they are freeing to the one hearing them.

"Will you forgive me for judging you about the way you dress? I was wrong."

"Will you forgive me for betraying your trust? I was wrong."

"Will you forgive me for lying to you? I was wrong".

"Will you forgive me for cheating you in that business deal last month? I was wrong."

In the case of cheating someone or stealing from someone, an essential piece of forgiveness it to make restitution for their loss.

The hardest words
in the world to say are,
"Will you forgive me?"

"I was wrong. Will you forgive me?" These words humble us. They also heal us and those we have harmed. They empower where it matters . . . in heavenly places. Should the offended one refuse to forgive you, graciously accept the refusal and continue to pray and forgive.

When we go to those we have harmed and sincerely ask for forgiveness and they refuse, we are forgiven by the Lord. We are loosed. It then becomes an issue between God and the one who refused to forgive. The operative word for us who are asking for forgiveness is "sincerely".

Forgiving Others

When someone does not realize or refuses to admit they have done anything wrong, we can forgive them in prayer to the Lord. Neither is it always necessary to confront someone who is unaware they have offended us with the wrong suffered nor tell them directly that we forgive them. If, however, after we pray we are still offended and struggling, then it is best to go to them. When all else fails, don't fail to communicate. And be gracious and kind about it.

It is important to make every attempt to resolve hurts with others whenever it is possible. This is usually done face-to-face.

Can I hold someone in bondage by my unforgiveness? Can someone hold me in bondage with theirs? No. No one walking in forgiveness can be held in bondage to anyone else. If, however, I am walking in unforgiveness, it's as if I'm walking around with a bull's eye on my back. I'm fair game for all outlaws and bounty hunters.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable,
because God has forgiven
the inexcusable in you.

C. S. Lewis

Forgiveness is the key to the prison door, and this lock opens from the inside. Forgiveness opens the prison door for me. At the same time it opens it for the one I forgive. If someone refuses to forgive me, I still have the key to my prison door. When I forgive another for their judgment against me, the prison door swings open and I go free.

Forgiveness is redemptive. As children of God, when we forgive, His redemption flows through us. We are trophies of God's redemption, and we are agents of God's redemption in the world. Spread it around!!!

I see the power of forgiveness in my life. I see it in the lives of hundreds of people every time I teach this vital message. Once we take hold of it and witness the changes it makes in us and those around us, mercy and forgiveness become a passionate desire instead of a wearisome and painful duty.

Jesus took God's wrath for sin upon Himself as He hung on the cross. He shed His blood to pay the price for every sin (Ephesians 1:7). All we have to do is believe and forgive. Even for those who believe, forgiveness is not an easy step to take, nor is it finished when we make the choice to forgive. It has only begun.

Once I understood the price we pay for unforgiveness—my own torment—and the iniquities passed down to my children, grand- children and great-grandchildren—and once I understood the power of forgiveness—the breaking of the patterns of behavior and the strongholds in the family to a thousand generations—I could not wait to get on with it.

Our nation needs to get on with it. Certainly the body of Christ needs to get on with it.

Forgiveness is the key
to the prison door.

Tears Cleanse the Pain of our Heartaches, Disappointments and Broken Dreams

Repentance and godly sorrow are companions. We can't have one without the other.

"For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The word "sorrow" in the Greek means heaviness, mourning and grief. This godly heaviness, mourning and grief produces repentance.

Repentance is not a choice, it is a fruit borne out of our griefs and sorrows in the presence of the Lord. Repentance isn't merely sorrow for our sins. Repentance doesn't just indicate a change of mind or a desire to change our mind. Repentance is a turning to God, and we can never turn to God and remain the same.

God transforms our souls in the midst of repentance. This repentance leads to salvation, which means "healing, wholeness and deliverance". The tears that have been begging to brim over all of our lives are the key to our healing. This is exactly what God created tears for—to brim over—to bring healing.

When we have not fought back our tears, we have shed them with shame because we did not understand their place in God's plan. That shame has created more pain and nullified the potential for healing.

Here is an important key. We know forgiveness takes place when we make that decision. Healing of our wounds, pain and disappoint- ment takes place in the brokenness of tears and repentance (turning to God).

Lord, so many offenses, so much unforgiveness, so much judgment. Where do I begin? Help me sort all of this out. Bring to my mind those against whom I am holding judgments, especially parents and other early authority figures. Also quicken to me those I have wounded. Make me a minister of reconciliation in my family, your church, our nation and your world. In Your Name I pray. Amen.

We know we are free
when our pain is gone.
Yes, it will go!

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Forgiveness, Healing and Transformation (c) 1997
Anne Murchison
Not for commercial use.
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