“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins, too” (Mark 11:25).
In God’s way of thinking, forgiveness is the principal activity and heart attitude needed to pave the way for forgiveness. It is, in fact, the key to freedom and victory in your walk with God. As long as unforgiveness is present, God’s hand of protection, mercy and restoration is hindered at best and stopped at worst. You will never fulfill your destiny in Christ until you have overcome unforgiveness and learned to actually and truly forgive the individual or organization that offended or hurt you.
But before we proceed any further, perhaps we should define the word, “Forgiveness.” It is the making of a decision – that a release is granted to the offending person (sometimes it is an organization, or a body of people – more than just an individual). When we forgive we choose to set them free. We don’t hold resentment; we don’t hold the bitterness; we let go of our plans to “get even.” When we truly forgive we cease to feel resentment against an offender. Forgiveness means that we grant release from payment of the debt of offense.
Forgiveness of One Another is a must – There is no other way!
God’s Word clearly spells out His requirement for the saints of God, and is uncompromising and non-negotiable. Forgiveness does not depend on our mood, or even on fairness, or who was wronged. God simply tells us repeatedly that we must forgive. Some choose to simply ignore or avoid people. This is also unacceptable to God, because that is not His nature. God commands that we forgive one another, friends and enemies alike. He doesn’t want us to be cold toward each other, or to mentally “x” people out.
God’s Consequences of Unforgiveness are Certain
If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us. Knowing that, should be enough for us, knowing that if we don’t forgive, He is not going to forgive us. I am not willing to pay the price of having God not forgive me, of being out from under His protection, or of being turned over to the tormentors. I am willing to do whatever it takes.
Two Common Misconceptions About Forgiveness
1. That once the offender is released, all the pain will automatically leave one’s heart.
That is not true – When the offense is forgiven, the healing has only just begun.The person then needs God to come and heal his heart and take away the pain.
2. Another misconception is that forgiveness is limited to being a decision only – over and done with, finished, full stop. Although forgiveness is a decision, it is more than the simple act of deciding. Forgiveness is a process that takes time.The wounded person must do his part in acknowledging unforgiveness (admit that I have unforgiveness in my heart). There are no shortcuts. Pretending will only sabotage the healing. Forgiveness (releasing) can be a very painful matter.
Hindrances to Forgiving Others
A. Some people simply do not know what the scriptures say about forgiveness.They may be new Christians, or come from churches that do not teach on forgiveness, or emphasize reading the Bible, but once they hear the Word, they must decide whether to be obedient or not concerning forgiveness.
B. Misconception: I have to feel forgiving. Do we have to feel forgiving in order to forgive? No! Forgiveness starts with a decision. First, it is an act of the will. If a person will ask God to bring him to a place where he chooses to forgive, God will honor that.
C. It’s too big to forgive – Sometimes a wrong has been committed that has been so overwhelming and devastating that the person feels, “I know that I should forgive, but I just can’t.” The wrong seems insurmountable. Forgiveness takes time, and God’s grace.
D. Some fear forgiveness – This often happens if the person equates forgiveness with excusing or ignoring the offense. He must realize that it is possible to release the offender from blame, while at the same time, acknowledging the full impact of the hurt and/or abuse in his/her life. The individual needs to know that he is not saying the offense is “ok.” It is not a blanket acceptance that he should accept more hurt or abuse of the same kind.
E. We may think we have already forgiven – Occasionally, we think we have forgiven when we have not. We may receive a phone call, a visit, or have a chance encounter which brings back a flood of hurtful memories.
F. Power over the other person – Sometimes the person feels that as long as he holds unforgiveness (and probably anger as well), he has power over the other person.This can be a way for the person to counter being a victim.
G. Recognize a Spirit of Unforgiveness and a Spirit of Control – The demonic spirit of unforgiveness, which tends to be passed down family lines, will do everything it can to prevent forgiveness. An entire family can be bitter and unforgiving. Demons of control also promote confusion and division within a family through continual defensive reactions.They hinder the forgiveness process by promoting fears of inadequacy and shame.
You may be a true born again Christian, and still be tormented with unforgiveness. It’s time to let go and release that person from what he has done to you.