What seems like letting someone else off the hook is actually setting your own heart free.
As I sat on the edge of my couch, I whispered the words: “…But I don’t want to.” Tears started to well up in my eyes and the all-too-familiar tension began to consume my heart and mind. I realized this was more than a physical or emotional battle. It was a spiritual battle that needed to be surrendered to the Lord, and it all boiled down to one word – forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a beautiful, liberating word. It is also a terrifying, painful word. Forgiveness offers hope and newness to the one being forgiven. But what about the person offering forgiveness? It seemed unfair to offer such a gift to someone so undeserving, someone who caused immense pain and heartache. These were the thoughts that plagued me. And then the soft, tender voice of Jesus penetrated my heart – “But I forgave you.” God reminded me of all the things He had forgiven me of. All the many times I blew it and how I was overjoyed to receive His merciful forgiveness.
Romans 5:8 states, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God didn’t have to die for me. He chose to die for me – even while I was a sinner. God didn’t have to forgive me. He chose to forgive me. Who am I to embrace the forgiveness of my Savior and withhold it from those around me? It’s interesting how we worship God for His forgiveness and yet, we refuse to give it to those who need it most.
I am reminded of the Parable of the Unforgiving Slave in Matthew 18. Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. One slave owed the king 10,000 talents (equivalent to a billion day’s worth of peasant wages). Since the slave had no way of paying his debt, the king commanded the slave, his wife, and children to be sold to cover the debt owed. The slave begged the king for mercy and the king had compassion on him. The king released the slave and forgave his loan.
This same slave went out and found a man who owed him 100 denarii (equivalent to three months of wages). This man begged the slave to be patient with him. Instead, the slave threw the man into prison until he could pay what he owed. The king found out about the slave’s unforgiveness and exclaimed, “Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33).
What a powerful statement and reflection of our Father’s heart. God’s mercy has been abundantly lavished on us. In turn, we should offer this same mercy and grace to those around us every day.
But what about disappointments that go beyond a fender bender or canceled dinner date? What about a friend’s hurtful words or coworker’s gossip? That phone call from the doctor. The loss of a job. Not receiving the promotion you worked so hard for. Let’s take it a step further. What about the stunning news you wish you never heard? A wayward child. Abandonment of a parent. Betrayal of a spouse. Even the wrongful death.
These disappointments may have left you broken. Maybe even shattered. But that one word – forgiveness – has the power to set you free.
Forgiveness is a choice.
It’s a choice between living in freedom and living in bondage.
It’s a choice between remaining bitter or walking in joy.
I believe that forgiveness and surrender go hand in hand. Forgiveness is an act of surrendering what is out of our control to the God who is always in control.
As I slid off the couch, I bent my knees and bowed my heart. I surrendered my desire to understand all things and the selfish need to keep score. I chose to forgive and asked God to help me continually forgive. Tears of pain turned into tears of joy. There was a burden lifted that only Jesus had the power to carry. Since then, I walk with a new song in my mouth and a hymn of praise to our God (Psalm 40:3).
I want to ask you – Who do you need to forgive? What bondage of bitterness needs to be surrendered to God today? I promise, there is only joy and freedom to be found when you do.