We live in an age of offence. Everyone is offended. Everyone is angry. Everyone is enraged. And out of this offence flows bitterness, resentment, hatred, and unforgiveness. Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come” (Luke 17:1). All of us experience offence daily, but the critical question is how our heart will handle it. All unforgiveness comes out of offense and unforgiveness may be the greatest poison to the heart known to mankind.
John Bevere, The Bait of Satan: “As I travel across the United States ministering, I have been able to observe one of the enemy’s most deadly and deceptive traps. It imprisons countless Christians, severs relationships, and widens the existing breaches between us. It is the trap of offense. Many are unable to function properly in their calling because of the wounds and hurts that offenses have caused in their lives. They are handicapped and hindered from fulfilling their full potential…The closer the relationship, the more severe the offense. You find the greatest hatred among those who were once close. ”
So many are wounded, hurt and bitter. They are offended and do not realize they have fallen into Satan’s trap. Every evil flows out of offense. Offense is a tool of the devil to bring people into captivity. The Greek word for “offense” means a “trap stick: the crooked stick on which a bait is fastened, which, being struck by the animal, springs the trap.” It is a deadly trap that springs suddenly and ensnares us in the trap of the Devil. This is why offense is called the bait of Satan as it gets the heart to fall into the trap of unforgiveness.
The Last Times are Marked as Times of Offense
Matthew 24:10-13: And many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love (agape) of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
The Word of God can never grow and produce fruit in the soil of an offended heart. The Word of God cannot take root and when the pressures of life or persecution come, the tender plant is scorched and withers away. Unforgiveness and offense ceases our growth in Christ. Mark 4:5,6, 16,17: And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
Satan’s Key Strategy of Unforgiveness
II Corinthians tells us that a major device of Satan in his warfare against the kingdom of God is unforgiveness. Unforgiveness allows the Devil to get an advantage over us and entrap us in his snare. The Bible says we are not to be ignorant of this device of unforgiveness.
II Corinthians 2:7-11: So instead of further rebuke, now you should rather turn and graciously forgive and comfort and encourage him, to keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive sorrow and despair.8 I therefore beg you to reinstate him in your affections and assure him of your love for him; 9 For this was my purpose in writing you, to test your attitude and see if you would stand the test, whether you are obedient and altogether agreeable to following my orders in everything.10 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, 11 To keep Satan from getting the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his wiles and intentions.
Will we stand the test and be obedient to our Savior and forgive the unforgiveable? Love the unlovable? We forgive in the person of Christ representing him as his ambassador of forgiveness. As God touched our heart with forgiveness, we touch the hearts of others with that same forgiveness.
Acts 24:16: And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.
This is a profitable exercise routine is to have a conscience that is never offended at God and never offended at any person for anything.
Do we Worship God yet Fail to do what He Says by not Forgiving?
The whole emphasis of the New Testament is on forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, and holy living manifested and made possible by the love of God through the Cross of Jesus Christ.(Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14) We as a church worship the hind legs off God figuratively speaking, then not lift a finger to do a single thing he says. Is such the case for Christians in the hard area of forgiveness? We worship God yet refuse to forgive. We praise God yet carry in our hearts a root of bitterness toward someone. God’s word is clear on the great duty of the Christian to forgive always without exception.
Psalm 86:5: For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Jeremiah 31:34: And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
What gives us the right to remember someone’s sin and hold it over their head? When God forgives, He remembers their sin no more and so should we. If we continue to remember the sin, we have not truly forgiven. There is no such thing as half-forgiveness, or partial forgiveness. When you forgive you are all in and the former sin is never held as a grudge or a trump card over the forgiven.
The Bible is full of examples of people who got offended and the devastating consequences of the resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness that flowed out of the offense. I can name a few like Cain, Saul, Judas, Absalom, King Uzziah, the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time and Barnabas.
How did Cain handle offense with his brother Abel? Cain became offended with God for not accepting his offering and Abel for offering a better sacrifice. He became angry, full of resentment and revenge. The spirit of unforgiveness consumed his heart and he murdered his brother. Unforgiveness is the way of Cain never the way of God and it always leads to the destruction of relationships. When we do not forgive we are walking in the way of Cain.
David and Absalom are a study on how to and how not to handle offense. King David remained loyal to King Saul even when King Saul was not loyal to him but continually was trying to kill him. David did not seek to avenge himself even when given the opportunity twice. David was a man after the heart of God. He let God judge between Saul and him. He held no bitterness or unforgiveness toward him. David’s son Absalom was different. David’s other son Amnon committed a wicked act against his half-sister Tamar who was Absalom’s sister as he raped her her and then despised her and removed her from his sight. He had disgraced a virgin royal princess, devastating her life with shame. Absalom brought Tamar into his home, but he hated Amnon for defiling Tamar. Absalom expected his father King David to punish his half-brother but even though David was outraged he took no action. Absalom was devastated by his father’s lack of justice. Now Tamar lived in seclusion, unable to marry because she was no longer a virgin. It was unfair. It seemed like Amnon was getting off scot free. Absalom was burning with rage, bitterness and unforgiveness. Absalom waited a year and when his father did nothing still, he became offended at King David. Absalom decided to avenge his sister and had Amnon killed. But he still carried the offense against his father and it grew stronger. His thoughts were poisoned with bitterness. He resented David. Out of his critical attitude, Absalom began to draw to himself anyone that was discontented. He made himself available to Israel to hear their complaints building support. He began to judge their cases also and he stole the hearts of Israel from his father David. Absalom drew Israel to him and rose up against King David. He was killed as he pursued David even though David had ordered him untouched. He was killed by his own offense, bitterness and unforgiveness. He has so much potential as heir to the throne, but died in his prime because he refuse to release the debt he thought his father owed. A root of bitterness had sprung up in his heart defiling and eventually destroying him. Unforgiveness is a killer of relationships, robbing life of God’s blessings. Unforgiveness tore the family of King David apart.
We do not wait until someone makes amends or repent before we forgive. The Bible teaches just the opposite. Wrongful injury or hurt becomes an opportunity to display the life-changing grace of God. God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the power of the gift of holy spirit we received at the new birth (Romans 5:5). What God expects us to be and empowers us to be are agents of His grace and unconditional love. This agape love is the life God has called to live. Forgiveness flows freely out of a walk of love. Unforgiveness has no place in heart of love as we have been commanded to even love our enemies.
I Corinthians 13:3-8a (Living Bible): Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him…love goes on forever.
Love never fails in any situation or problem. It is God’s solution in all relationships. Forgiveness never fails either for when you forgive you are fulfilling the will of God in any relationship.
For only forgiveness liberates us from a painful past to a brand-new future. Not to forgive is to suffer endlessly the torment of yesterday as both present and future are hopelessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Only forgiveness sets us free. Forgiveness sets us free to love like Christ loved in every circumstance, in every problem and with every person. According to Christ, no one is exempt from forgiveness no matter how bad they have hurt or harmed you. Remember Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
Ephesians 4:29-32: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
We forgive as God in Christ forgave us. That is the standard for Christian living. Remember what God forgave you for next time you have a hard time forgiving. These three wonderful qualities should be the trademark of our hearts: Kindness, Tenderheartness and Forgiveness. To get to this level of growth in Christ there are seven emotions that must be put away and eliminated from the heart.
The Seven Rivers of Unforgiveness: The Seven Emotions from Which All Unforgiveness Flows
1) Corrupt communication out of our mouth; Poison that comes out of our mouth that tears down, decays and destroys;
2) Bitterness-the fretted and irritable state of mind that keeps a man or woman in perpetual animosity; that inclines him to harsh and uncharitable opinions of men and things; that makes him sour, crabby and repulsive in his general demeanor; that brings a scowl over his face and infuses the words of his tongue with venom; Bitterness reflects a smoldering resentment, a brooding grudge–filled attitude, an unwillingness to forgive or a harsh feeling. Bitterness is the opposite of sweetness and kindness. In every recipe of unforgiveness there is the ingredient of bitterness. Greeks defined this word as long-standing resentment, as the spirit which refuses to be reconciled. Every day thousands upon thousands people die in bitterness of soul, having never tasted the goodness of forgiveness. (Job 21:25). Bitterness according to the Word of God is the root cause of much sickness, disease and death. God’s commandment to the church and to the Christian is this: “Get rid of all bitterness!” If you do not it take root in your heart and this root of bitterness will bring much trouble and defile everything it touches (Hebrews 12:15). Examine your heart daily for any trace of bitterness and crush it with the love and grace of God. Bitterness breeds unforgiveness and will destroy and harden your heart against everyone including God. Right now take it from your heart and throw it in the trash!
3) Wrath: thumos- a violent motion or passion of the mind; move violently, rush along) describes passion (as if breathing hard) and so speaks of an agitated, vehement anger that rushes along relentlessly. Thumos describes a tumultuous welling up of the whole spirit; a mighty emotion which seizes and moves the whole inner man. Thumos is a blaze of sudden anger which is quickly kindled and just as quickly dies. The Greeks likened it to a fire amongst straw, which quickly blazed and just as quickly burned itself out.
4) Anger: Orge is anger which has become inveterate; it is long-lasting, slow-burning anger, which refuses to be pacified and nurses its wrath to keep it warm…To the Christian the burst of temper and the long-lived anger are both alike forbidden. Orge refers to an inner, deep resentment that seethes and smolders. Thumos type anger represents an agitated, vehement anger that rushes along relentlessly. The root meaning has to do with moving rapidly and was used of a man’s breathing violently while pursuing an enemy in great rage! Orge is more subtle, deep flowing anger. We must cease from all anger and wrath and put them away from our hearts. The smoldering fire of unforgiveness is anger. Anger and wrath ignite the flame of unforgiveness and keep it burning in our hearts.
5) Clamor: (krauge from krázo = clamor or cry = a word like “croak” ~ suggests a rough and guttural sound = croaking of ravens = croak or cry out with a loud, raucous voice like donkey in Job 6:5, childbirth Is 26:17, war cry in Josh 6:16) can refer to a chorus of voices (one voice in Lk 1:42) speaking loudly at the same time (outcry, shout, clamor). The word he uses for cry (krauge) is very significant. It is a cry which a man does not choose to utter, but is wrung from him in the stress of some tremendous tension or searing pain. The shout or outcry of strife and reflects an outburst that reveals loss of control. It is a a loud and confused noise, especially of shouting. Loud outcries of anger, bawling, angry bickering, and shouting down of opponents. This is the cry of unforgiveness that is forged in the oven of overwhelming tension, anxiety, stress and pain. It breeds confusion and loss of control of our emotions. Our cry should be to God and not to others out of strife and brooding frustration. Get rid of clamor and let the only shout in our hearts be the shout of victory of our Lord.
6) Slander: (blasphemia from blapto = hinder, injure, hurt + pheme = report, rumor, fame from phemí = to speak;) refers to verbal abuse against someone which denotes the very worst type of slander. It is speech which seeks to wound someone’s reputation by evil reports, evil speaking. It is abusive speech against someone by telling lies or otherwise offending them. Blasphemia means literally to speak to harm and in general therefore means to bring into ill repute and so to slander, to defame (to harm the reputation of by libel or slander), speak evil of, to rail at(revile or scold in harsh, insolent, or abusive language and rail stresses an unrestrained berating), to speak calumny (noun form = a misrepresentation intended to blacken another’s reputation = the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to damage another’s reputation), to calumniate (verb form = to utter maliciously false statements, charges, or imputations about – calumniate imputes malice to the speaker and falsity to the assertions). Blasphemia is speech that is harmful, which denigrates or defames and thus refers to reviling, denigration, disrespect, slander, abusive speech (as against a person’s reputation), evil speaking. The power of life and death is in the tongue and the words coming forth from our mouths. We see people like God sees them and our words must build up and not tear down. Our words must comfort; our words must heal; our words must minister grace to all those who hear them. Satan accuses the brethren, the saints, God’s beloved night and day and we must not assist him in his ministry of destruction by doing the same. Get rid of all slander and throw it in the trash. Slander is the outflow of unforgiveness.
7) Malice: (kakia) is the general term for evil that is the root of all vices. Kakia is synonymous with the quality of wickedness and thus in a moral sense means depravity, vice or baseness. In reference to behavior kakia conveys the idea of a mean-spirited or vicious attitude or disposition as indicated by words such as malice, ill-will, hatefulness, and dislike. It is an attitude of wickedness as an evil habit of one’s mind. Kakia is used in NT to describe the wickedness which comes from within a person. Malice desires to hurt another and rejoices in it! Trench says that kakia is “that peculiar form of evil which manifests itself in a malignant interpretation of the actions of others, an attributing of them all to the worst motive” Webster says that “malice” is a desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another and implies a deep-seated often unexplainable desire to see another suffer. This is the viciousness that comes with the sin nature. This is the old leaven of the heart that stirs up wickedness. This vicious intent to do evil, harm or hurt is the ultimate goal of unforgiveness. This is the crowning achievement of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is driven and fueled by malice. Malice and its mean-spirited and vicious disposition must be eliminated from our hearts and attitudes. This is evil that destroys relationships. This is evil entrenched in selfishness. This is evil that is a cancer in our homes, churches and the body of Christ.
These are the seven rivers, the seven fruit, the seven power sources, and the seven generators of unforgiveness. All unforgiveness flows out of these seven emotions. Unforgiveness keeps us from being kind and tenderhearted. Unforgiveness is like pouring cement in the heart. Unforgiveness is like pouring polluted toxic waste in the heart. Unforgiveness is like dumping the weekly trash into the heart.
Wayne Barber writes that…
In Ephesians 4:31-32 Paul contrasts the two garments. We are in a flow now that continues through the rest of the book. How we are to walk? How we are to live this new life? He gives us a contrast. One is a cesspool, the other a wellspring. One I would rather not speak about, the other one is an artisan well. It is something that never ends in its supply and provision to others. Paul shows us the cesspool of the old self and the wellspring of the new self, the new garment. He lets us see what is underneath everything that is going on in our life. We can either tap into the cesspool, the old stagnant, rotten, putrid type of thing, or we can tap into the wellspring of Jesus Christ. Which garment are you going to put on?
If we keep allowing our toxic sin nature to fuel our heart, mind and attitudes and these seven rivers flow into and out of our hearts, we grieve and hurt God deeply. He literally cries over you when your heart is entrenched in the spirit of unforgiveness. To not forgive is to literally slap God in the face and trample the work of the cross and the grace of God under our feet. It is to have contempt for the grace of God. It is to ignore the work of God in a person’s life.
Wiersbe has this practical comment on “bitterness” to which even believers can fall prey…
An unforgiving spirit is the devil’s playground and before long it becomes the Christian’s battleground. If somebody hurts us, either deliberately or unintentionally, and we do not forgive him, then we begin to develop bitterness within, which hardens the heart (cp Mt 6:12, 14, 15-see notes). We should be tenderhearted and kind, but instead we are hardhearted and bitter. Actually, we are not hurting the person who hurt us; we are only hurting ourselves. Bitterness in the heart makes us treat others the way Satan treats them, when we should treat others the way God has treated us. In His gracious kindness, God has forgiven us, and we should forgive others. We do not forgive for our sake (though we do get a blessing from it) or even for their sake, but for Jesus’ sake. Learning how to forgive and forget is one of the secrets of a happy Christian life. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)
The Nine Companions of Forgiveness: Out of These Qualities All Forgiveness Flows
Colossians 3:12-15: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
The nine companions of forgiveness and the environment it grows out of are compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, love, peace and thankfulness. If we are not forgiving we are not walking in one or more of these wonderful qualities of Christ.
The Amazing Parable about Forgiveness
Matthew 18:21-35: Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
A talent is a unit of measure. It was used in measuring gold, silver and other precious metals. One talent was equivalent to 75 pounds. Ten thousand talents would be approximately 750,000 pounds or 375 tons. This servant owed the king 375 tons of gold. The price of gold currently is $1326 an ounce. One talent is $1,591,200. So the servant owed the king in today’s dollars almost 16 billion dollars!! Jesus was emphasizing this was a debt he could not pay. Forgiveness is like the cancellation of a debt. Colossians 2:13,14: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
A denarius was approximately equal to a laborer’s day wages. So in today’s money one hundred denarii would be worth about $5600. This man was forgiven a debt of 16 billion, but refused to forgive a debt of $5600? The offenses we hold against each other compared to the offenses that God forgive us for are like the $5600 compared to the 16 billion. We may have been treated badly by someone else, but it does not compare with our transgressions against God. A person who cannot forgive has forgotten the great debt for which they were forgiven. When you realize God through Christ released you from the penalty of your sins, from eternal death and gave you citizenship in His kingdom as sons and daughters you will release others unconditionally. Every time you don’t forgive you are like this unforgiving servant in the parable who was forgiven so much but refused to forgive a paltry sum in comparison.
THE TRUE HEART OF A CHRISTIAN
Romans 12:9-21 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Actually, forgiveness is not only about others, but also about our own spiritual growth.
Love and forgiveness cannot be separated. If we choose to live out the love of God as the purpose of our life, then forgiving is an option that cannot be avoided.
It is for God to judge, not for us
James 4:11,12 Never pull each other to pieces, my brothers. If you do you are judging your brother and setting yourself up in the place of God’s Law; you have become in fact a critic of the Law. Yet if you start to criticize the Law instead of obeying it you are setting yourself up as judge, and there is only one judge, the one who gave the Law, to whom belongs absolute power of life and death. How can you then be so silly as to imagine that you are your neighbor’s judge?
There is no room for grudges in the Body of Christ. To forgive is to release it forever, never to bring it up again. There are no conditions to forgiveness in the Bible as it is unconditional. Our forgiveness so often is not unconditional as we seek, desire, plan and try to carry out our revenge. We don’t want to forgive until the debt is paid in full, so we set up ourselves as the Judge and jury, but there is only one Judge and it is not us. Do not be in bondage to human justice. We really try to play God when we do not forgive. Unforgiveness in borne out of a prideful heart that refuses to humble itself and release the offense to God. Quit trying to defend ourselves and let God defend us. Release the unforgiveness to God and be set free from its poison. Unforgiveness is a breach that prevents restoration of a relationship. If God marked our iniquities we could never stand so we should not mark the iniquities of others. Psalm 130:3,4: If you Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared (respected, revered and held in awe).
The Greatest Example of Forgiveness in the Gospels
Luke 23:33-34 NIV: When they came to a place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
It is almost unfathomable to imagine this level of forgiveness especially if you realize the extreme torture, mockings and beatings Jesus endured. We are to forgive like this.
Three Greek Words for Forgive:
There are three Greek words for “forgive” which help us understand more in depth what it means to forgive.
1) Aphiema-To send away, dismiss, set free, express the discharge or acquittal of a defendant, to remit the punishment, where the guity is dealt with as if he were innocent. When we forgive, we send the offense away, we set it free from our hearts and we declare the person NOT GUILTY and acquitted even if they were not innocent!
2) Charizomai: Forgiving (“given as an act of grace”) means literally to give freely and unconditionally or to bestow as a gift of grace and then to remit a debt, and hence to forgive. To forgive is to extend grace to someone. Who does not deserve some grace? God extended unlimited grace to us. Why is it so hard for us to extend it to someone else? Charizomai means to extend grace, to show kindness or to bestow favor. The concept came to include both the gracious action and agreeable human qualities. The present tense calls for this to be the believer’s continual practice, our new way of life (our “new garment” worn continually) as saints. Don’t say you can’t forgive, for what you are really saying is you won’t forgive. We can forgive others because He forgave us! As an act of mercy make the conscious choice to extend grace to others who don’t necessarily deserve it. In fact Paul uses the middle voice which pictures believers as those who are to initiate the action of forgiving and then to participate in the results of forgiveness, not the least of which is we free ourselves from the “prison” and “poison” of unforgiveness!
3) Apoluo-“to let loose from, to loosen, unbind, to set at liberty, to set a debtor free, and overlook.” When we forgive we let loose the offense, we unbind it from our heart and throw it away never to let it raise its ugly head again. We set the debt free like the parable and set our heart at liberty by freeing it of its offense.
As mentioned before an unforgiving spirit is the devil’s playground: Ephesians 4:27 “Don’t give place to the devil” by allowing unforgiveness to dominate our hearts.
Importance of Forgiveness to Our Prayer Life
When Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, it is amazing that Jesus taught forgiveness is an importat part of our prayer life. The Lord’s Prayer states in Matthew 6:12: “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” He also said in Mark 11:25: “When you stand praying if you hold ANYTHING against ANYONE, forgive them”. Forgiveness is a critical component for our faith to work for unforgiveness is a great hindrance to our faith and our prayer life. We cannot have faith that moves mountains if we do not forgive. (Read Mark 11: 22ff)
I wonder how many Christians would want God to forgive them in the same way they have forgiven those who have offended them.
Words of Jesus on the New Standard of Love and Forgiveness:
Luke 6:32-38: “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 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 is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Final Admonitions to the Church on the Walk of Forgiveness:
Unforgiveness is at the heart of every Church division and split throughout history. Unforgiveness is running rampant in Christianity today and it must be stopped. Its poison pill is being swallowed every day by Christians and it is corrupting their witness for Christ and destroying their lives physically and spiritually.
Galatians 5:13-15: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Romans 14:19: Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
Ephesians 4:1-3: I therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the divine calling to which you have been called with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God’s service,2 Living as becomes you with complete lowliness of mind (humility) and meekness (unselfishness, gentleness, mildness), with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another.3 Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of [and produced by] the Spirit in the binding power of peace.
We can only walk worthy of our divine calling when we walk in complete forgiveness. God is begging us to honor our Lord by forgiving others. God says in I Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
Divisions and disunity have all come from offense and unforgiveness. Won’t you answer God’s plea from this day forward and let forgiveness be the brand of your life. Do not let offense push you to be unforgiving, hard-hearted and bitter, but forgive like God in Christ forgave you and set your heart free. We must not allow a schism to arise in the Body of Christ because of unforgiveness, but we must have the same love and care for each other as Christ has for us. Then the gospel will truly set us free to live as His ambassadors for Jesus Christ on the earth walking in His amazing love and forgiveness.
By Tim Rowe
Goodness of God Ministries