Forgiveness, it’s not an easy topic. Usually, we want to take the high road and be a person who forgives. But when it comes down to making the choice to forgive, we’d rather take the off roads, back roads, and detours around the actual process of forgiveness. Why is that?
Wounding and Culpability
Wounding. Sometimes when someone hurts you, they realize it. Other times, they can’t even fathom how much damage they did. Either way, whether the person recognizes their culpability or not, Jesus calls us to forgive. After all, He gave us the perfect example from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
We could never understand the weight of pain and humiliation our sins caused Jesus. He forgave us before we were even aware we caused Him anguish. Some people will never realize their culpability, but Jesus is willing to extend forgiveness anyway.
The Debt is the Lord’s
In class last week, we listened to part five of a teaching series on healing called Be Made Whole from Jim Baker at Zion Christian Fellowship. The teaching was about relational healing and forgiving from the heart.
There is one part in the lesson that stuck with me. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the story of the servant who has his insurmountable debt cleared by his master. Yet, that servant goes and chokes out his fellow servant to repay a tiny amount owed to him.
At one point Jim Baker says, that debt wasn’t his to collect anymore because when his master forgave him his debt, all the servant’s assets and debts became the property of the master. The tiny debt the servant was owed was the master’s to reclaim or forgive.
Jesus says that we must forgive from the heart in Matthew 18:35. We can’t just say the words “I forgive you” but not let the words change our hearts.
How do we do that? I can say, I forgive you, but in five minutes I might start thinking about the pain that still aches in my heart and suddenly I’m bitter, angry, and resentful. I have to take it to Jesus again. And five minutes later. Ten minutes after that.
Jonah and the Quest for Justice
It can be easy to get hung up on the quest for justice. Jonah was certainly concerned about it. The people of Nineveh deserved punishment for their wickedness, but Jonah said to God, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
The fact that they would get off the hook for their sins made Jonah really angry.
God asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:4
Jonah had not tended or cared for the people like God had. The people belonged to the Lord and the justice, whether punishment or mercy, also belonged to Him.
Have you ever struggled with wanting Justice instead of Mercy? How do we trade our (in our minds) righteous anger and hurt for Jesus’ love and forgiveness toward the person who wronged us?
Safe Place Prayer of Forgiveness
A pastor friend of mine once encouraged me to use a safe place prayer. In essence, you go to a safe place with Jesus in your mind. Then you also picture the person who hurt you there with you and Jesus. As you sit and tell Jesus about the wounding, the hurt, the betrayal…you begin to feel the pain.
At that point, in your mind, physically walk the person over to Jesus and hand them to Him. As you extend forgiveness, ask for God’s love, peace, and mercy to come fill up the broken places and remove the hurt.
The first time I decided to practice this prayer of forgiveness, it went like this. I pictured myself at the top of a roaring waterfall with Jesus on one side and me and the person who hurt me on the other. A rope bridge over the deep chasm separated us from Jesus.
My goal was to walk the person over the bridge and hand them to Jesus. So, I walked right up to the ledge and stood with the person I was trying to forgive. I looked at them, reached out, and with two hands I shoved them right off the cliff into the waterfall. I watched them fall all the way down and make a little splash below. Whoops!
Forgive and Keep Forgiving
Ok, you are either aghast or laughing. I hope it’s the latter. Can you relate to not always following the perfect example of our Lord Jesus the first time, every time?
Let me tell you…it’s hard to forgive. And I get that. Clearly sanctification can be a slow process sometimes, as I’ve personally demonstrated. It may be the same for you. I do know that we can continue to obey Jesus with our whole hearts. And when we mess up, His mercy and grace meet us where we are every time.
This week, if we remember one thing, let’s remember that the person who hurt us and their debt belongs to the Lord. Unforgiveness will only cause us pain. Let’s trade those feelings for God’s forgiveness, healing love, and mercy in our lives.
I’m praying that you find freedom and release this week as you walk the road of forgiveness. Clearly, you should definitely pray for me too, friend! 😉