If we can look at our hearts like a walled city, we can see that the gate to that city is forgiveness. Forgiveness is a powerful tool we can use to protect our hearts against the enemy’s attack. That is why satan is always eager to get us caught up into offenses that cause us to become bitter.
Forgiveness is the very pinnacle of our faith in Jesus Christ. And it is only through forgiveness that we can be truly free, free to move forward, unchained from our past. Forgiveness is a gift to us, but it is a gift we must be equally willing to give to others.
Christ Forgave Us
His love for us is unconditional (see Lamentations 3:22-23), but His forgiveness is conditional (see Matthew 6:14-15). There are no exceptions to this rule. We can say that the offense that we feel in our heart is too great for us to forgive and let go of, but if we do not forgive we will be tortured by that misdeed for the rest of our lives. The person that wounded us continues to cause us pain each time we remember it, until we release that person to God and forgive. This is what Christ did for us and this is what He expects of us.
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
He Expects the Same from Us
As Christ hung on the Cross, He knew He was being brutally murdered by hatred. The hatred His murderers felt toward Him was indeed a great offense. They not only killed Him, but while He was hanging on the Cross, beaten and humiliated, they continued to mock and insult Him (see Matthew 27:39). He was innocent and they were guilty. He was dying for them, and they mocked Him. Yet, enduring their torture, Jesus reached down into the reservoir of His strength and labored in His weakened condition to speak in their defense. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Their offense was great, but His forgiveness was greater. And He expects nothing less from us. He knew that the people who were hurting Him were not His enemies. He saw them as innocent victims who had been manipulated and used by His enemy, satan. We need to see that behind every offense is our adversary, the devil. And he is “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). His target is not the person who offended you, but his target is actually you. His plan is to get you to hold onto the offense and open the doors of unforgiveness. When he does this, he can bring in a multitude of torturers to torture us with our past. Our past is allowed to take hold of our present, and the sinful behavior that we have been forgiven of and delivered from suddenly returns and tries to take root in our hearts.
The Bible, in Matthew 18, tells the story of “a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” He realized that one of his servants owed him ten thousand talents, so he had the man brought to him. He ordered that the man and his entire household should be sold to make payment for the debt. “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go” (Matthew 18:26-27).
As soon as the servant left his master, he found a man who owed him money and demanded payment of the debt. When the man could not pay and asked for mercy, the servant had him thrown into prison until the debt could be paid in full. Seeing the entire situation played out before them, the other servants in the household went to the king and told him what their fellow servant had done. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed” (Matthew 18:32-34).
Free from Offense
When we choose not to forgive our brother, we open the door for our past to come back on us and torture us. There is a very painful side to unforgiveness that satan does not like us to discuss. He wants to make you feel as though you will lose something by forgiving, but really you have everything to gain and very little to lose. You gain peace and joy, you lose the constant torture of remembering the offense. You gain the love and acceptance of your heavenly Father. You lose the chains of the fear of the incident recurring again. And you lose the agonizing entitlement of living in the cozy little jail cell of your past.
Suddenly you are free to move on. You only need to look back now to see how far you have come from the “old you” who kept every offense locked away in the treasure chest of your mind. The “old you” would pull out (at satan’s request) the woundings from your past, only to let them wound you again and again as you toss them around in your mind.
Dear ones, do not forget: You are a child of the King! Your heavenly Father rules the world and you are His heir. Your life belongs to Him, including the painful events of your past. He cares about you very much! He has provided a way out of the pain: you have only to open the locks and remove the chains…you have only to forgive.
Your Father in Heaven wants you to be free from the offense – free to move on and fulfill your destiny in Him. As you move closer to fulfilling the call God has on your life, satan will try to bring about circumstances that lead to unforgiveness. Disappoint him and forgive. Satan does not want you to fulfill your destiny, and he knows if he can get you into unforgiveness, you won’t.
The very person who has offended you might be the one that God wants to use to release you into your destiny. Offense is the test of graduation. Forgiveness gives you an A+! Unforgiveness leaves you with a failing grade and you will repeat the course again and again until you have passed.
A Thorough Cleaning
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
I went through a season in my life when God chose to do a thorough cleaning of my heart. I use the word thorough because in Webster’s Dictionary it means “complete and absolute.” My heavenly Father laid the ax to the roots of unforgiveness in my heart and did not let up until the job was done. The word thorough is also appropriate because the root word of thorough is rough, which in Webster’s means “lacking comforts and conveniences.” During this season in my life, God would not permit me to give any comfort or convenience to the sin of unforgiveness, no matter what the offense was or who had been used to offend me.
Often those closest to us will be the ones satan uses to hurt us the most. It is easy to forgive the checkout lady at the grocery store who does not show us the proper respect. However, when those we love betray our trust, it is a much deeper wound and we need to be aggressive in our ongoing love for them. Our love for them will keep us from retaliation (see 1 Corinthians 13:5).
An Aggressive Defense
The enemy will seek to use our mouths to accuse the ones we love. We can stand in aggressive judgment toward them, with our finger wagging in their face and satan’s words of condemnation flying out of our mouths…
We can be used by God to aggressively defend those who have wronged us. Satan cannot condemn them if we, as the people they have offended, will stand in their defense.
When Aaron and Miriam spoke against their brother Moses (see Numbers 12) for having a Cushite wife, the anger of the Lord burned against them. Miriam was struck with leprosy, but Moses interceded for her. “So Moses cried out to the Lord, “O God, please heal her!” (Numbers 12:13). Moses was not the one who sinned, but he is the one who cried out for God’s forgiveness for his sister. He had the authority to intercede for her because he chose to forgive. If we love, we will not let satan use us to condemn and accuse. We can be used by God to cover their sins. Next time it might be our turn to be forgiven, and they may be used by God to defend us.
In our home, when our children have a disagreement and one is clearly in the wrong, we often let the child who has been wronged choose “punishment” or “forgiveness” for the offending sibling. We remind them that next time it may be them in the hot seat, and they should choose for their brother or sister what punishment they would want chosen for themselves. Almost without exception, they choose forgiveness.
It is not always easy to forgive, but it is necessary; it is what Jesus is asking from us. He expects us to do as He Himself did. And yet, while they were killing Him, He was interceding for their pardon.
Pray this with me:
Dear Father, please uncover areas of unforgiveness in my heart and help me to release them to You. I choose to forgive those who have been used to wound me, because I want more of You.
Say out loud the names of those who have offended you. See them as victims of satan’s manipulation to hurt you, and release them by saying that you forgive them. Pray for them and bless them. Now, go on and fulfill your destiny!
Speaking Life Ministries