If knowledge is gained through experience, I should be pretty familiar with the subject of forgiveness. I have had much to be forgiven for in my life time & have also had much to forgive. Some connected, some disconnected but all necessary & all small steps towards what I feel is finally some sort of real mental health, peace & stability. That is not to say I have life figured out, but I am fully connected to the One that does. Nor is it to say I don’t continue to do things out of my stupidity that will not require some form of forgiveness again. Sinning out of brokenness is one thing, sinning out of stupidity is another, connected, just as bad in the eyes of God, yet somehow different. The knowledge that I have made a mistake comes so quickly now, without prompting (or desire to know sometimes), I just know.
I’ve heard it said that this is because once we become a new creation in Christ, sin is no longer our nature, we are no longer sinners by nature. That does not mean we do not sin, but as I’m sure you know, there is that immediate knowledge that comes from inside letting you know you did something that was not good for you to do. A lot of the time it is something that used to bring you pleasure with no remorse, not that same act is contrary to your very nature. This allows me to be in a place to rectify the errors of my ways much quicker than in the past, where it could be many, many days, weeks or even years before I even realized what was causing an issue.
So I suppose this is where I could tell you about how important it is to forgive people, to forgive yourself, to restore relationships, especially a right relationship with the Lord. I could tell you that, but you already know it, deep inside you know it. What I want to do is to look at what exactly forgiveness is, what I know of it & what the bible says about it. Maybe take a little look at why people are so afraid of it. It seems to me that sometimes people become so numb to their constant pain that the thought of a brief, if worse pain, that leads to freedom from pain all together is not a choice that is easily made.
Sometimes you are so numb to the truth, that you think everything is ok, that there is nothing to deal with. This is what happens when we develop coping mechanisms to avoid our pain, we live in these masks, with these lies long enough, that we forget that they are not correct. It is at this point that our core identity becomes based around a lie, our coping mechanisms, our life. We feel like we can handle the mess that is life because, hey that’s just the way life is. The good news however is that life does not have to be that way.
What is forgiveness really? It is not saying something is ok. Forgiveness is like a wound that was once deep but had been allowed to heal. This wound has been treated. Now it is just a scar. Each day you think less and less about the scar. You can look at it and remember something that was once very painful; but as you look at the scar, you know that the wound itself is only a memory. This is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not about trying to be a nice person, or trying to do the right thing. When we really forgive people, we release any feeling that they owe us for the wrong done. We are the ones to release the wrong.
When I see the wrong done to me by another as their problem, not mine, and my pain as my problem not theirs, I have forgiven. When I forgive I let go of control. When I forgive I let go of blame. When I forgive I choose to not hold you responsible for me and to not hold myself responsible for you.
You say, well that all sounds great, but I can’t do it, I can’t forgive them. Even if I know what it really means, I just can’t do it. Well no, you probably can’t, but through Christ you can. Through the power of His spirit that lives within you, you can, because its not you doing it, it’s Him. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, then my friend, that is where all this begins, if this is on your heart, then right now is the perfect time to confess your sins to Him, and accept Him as your Lord and savior. In the eyes of God, the wages of sin are death. However because He loved you so much, He came to earth, fully human and paid the price for your sins, my sins, anyone who will accept Him, sacrificially in our place. You see, when you experience the love of God your capacity to love others grows. This allows you to forgive the seemingly unforgivable.
Jesus did all this (in covenant) for you (me, everybody). He surrendered his rights & assumed responsibility for our sins. He could have called down an army of 10,000 angels, but instead he made a covenant with us through love.
Not interested? Think life is just fine running along with your anger and bitterness? Did you ever wonder where that anger comes from? Where the resentment comes from? That bitterness that makes the happy moments oh so brief and the rest of life a miserable grind? It comes from unforgiveness. When you have been hurt, when you have been offended, when you have been abused, it is natural to feel pain, anger, resentment etc.
Forgiving people, even the seemingly unforgivable, is not handing a license for someone to hurt you again. Forgiveness is not an agreement between two people, it is a decision of the will to remove the hold that situation had over your life. To let go. A lot of the time it will not be a face to face situation, there is a good chance other person doesn’t even know that you are mad at them that they hurt you. Even if they do, this is not about them, this is about you and you receiving the freedom that God wants for you in your life.
Unforgiveness is like eating rat poison & hoping it will hurt someone else. Don’t listen to anyone that says you should hold a grudge the rest of your life, that message is from the devil. Tell the devil to go to hell, God wants intimacy with you, do not settle for less than friendship with Jesus. If you are so caught up in your pain, you will never get to that place of true intimacy with God.
That right there, the fear of the Lord should be the overriding motivation to forgive others. The fear of the Lord is not the fear of punishment by the Lord, it is the fear or not being with the Lord. The fear of losing His guiding hand, His loving discipline, His unending grace. The fear of not knowing the Lord, is the only fear we should ever carry, not the fear of what will happen if I surrender my anger and resentment for the things that have happened in my past. The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom.
I said I was going to involve the bible in this didn’t I? Well, here are a few of my favorite verses on forgiveness. Hopefully they will speak to you as they have done to me.
Luke 11:2-4 New International Version (NIV)
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation
Luke 17:3-5 New International Version (NIV)
3 So watch yourselves.
“If your brother or sister[a] sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
Luke 23:32-34 New International Version (NIV)
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
Luke 6:37-38 New International Version (NIV)
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Matthew 18:21-35 New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
I really could have just stopped with the Lord’s prayer, forgive us as we forgive others, but I like scripture so I gave you some extras. That says it all though, I’m sure we have all payed the Lords prayer at some point, think about it, we are asking our Father to forgive us, just as we forgive others. If we are withholding forgiveness, then how can we expect to be forgiven?
Now, the main focus of this series has been men and what I call broken male culture. However this subject, forgiveness, like much of the rest is completely applicable to all. I just believe that if we could empower men to get past their hurt, to get past their blocked emotions and to start working on getting healthy. Then I think we would see a transformed world.
Can we change the world of broken male culture? I believe so, but it will be slow small steps, one man at a time, I’ll be working on me, with the guiding hand of the Trinity. Hopefully as my light begins to shine ever brighter, it will encourage others to light their lamp. Maybe one day instead of broken male culture, we will be talking about the light of the city of the side of the hill that cannot be ignored.
I’d love to pretend this is all my own work, but much of what I have learned on this subject has come from the below wonderful people
Pastor Toby Slough – the senior pastor at Cross Timbers Community Church
Pastor Alan Smith – from Gateway
Graham Cooke – Brilliant publishing, look him up on youtube & twitter (and probably other places too)
Making Peace With Your Past – a 12 week course I took that was the true genesis of my understanding of forgiveness and what it meant in my life