“Forgive and forget” – Miguel de Cervantes
Forgiving is not easy and forgetting is even more difficult. Yet, this has been a common saying for almost a millennium.
But it hurts…
When someone wrongs you.
When someone takes something away from you.
When someone manipulates you.
When someone tears you down unintentionally or maliciously.
It hurts – and pain is not easy to forget.
And yet, the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament church emphasize forgiveness and reconciliation to the point of you, should make sure you are not holding any anger, bitterness or a grudge against someone before you walk through the church doors on Sunday (Matthew 5:24).
Yet, because of sin, forgiveness goes against our human nature.
If someone has wronged me, I may feel justified in cutting them off or even enacting revenge by the world’s standards.
If someone has hurt me, I may feel like I can hold onto a grudge for years and allow it to become a boiling pot of bitterness that simmers and pops.
If someone has manipulated me or taken something away from me, I may feel like I have the right to get angry and to act on that rage by tearing other people down in the process.
Forgiveness is hard.
It’s especially hard when we have to forgive the same people over and over again.
The Apostle Peter also knew this struggle which is why he asked Jesus one day how many times he had to forgive his brother, guessing about seven times should be more than enough. (By Jewish law, it was only required to forgive someone three times).
Jesus responded, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:22).
Then, Jesus launched into a parable to explain what seventy times seven meant. Because Jesus wasn’t saying “If you forgive your brother 490 times, you’ll be golden, Peter. But if he sins against you on number 491, you can be done with him!”
Jesus was wanting Peter, his disciples, and us one day, to understand that forgiveness should be limitless – like how God forgives our sins.
So, in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (You can read the story for yourself in Matthew 18:23-35), Jesus compares God to the king of the land, and humans to servants.
The story begins with a servant coming to the king, empty-handed and completely unable to pay off a massive debt. The servant begs the king to give him more time, and so, the king (God, remember?) has compassion and forgives him of a debt so large he would have never been able to pay it off in his lifetime (Like, a million dollars).
But, after the servant was forgiven and is perhaps skipping on his way home to tell his wife the good news, he runs into a fellow servant who owes him a hundred day’s wages.
So, what does the servant do?
Do you think he shrugs it off and shows him mercy like the king showed mercy upon him?
Would you if someone owed you $20,000?
Sadly, the servant grabs the guy, strangles him and demands to be paid.
The servant being choked begs on his hands and knees to get more time… But the unforgiving servant decides to toss him in jail instead.
The king gets wind of it and summons the unforgiving servant back to the throne room for questioning and shouts:
‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’
Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.[Jesus said], “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters[m] from your heart.” (Matthew 18:32-35).
Woah, that just got real.
There are consequences for NOT forgiving someone, by the mouth of Jesus. If we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us.
And yet God’s forgiveness covers an insurmountable debt –sin – to save our very souls.
So, if we have been forgiven, we should be able to forgive others as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).
Because, in the end, eternal souls are a higher weighted currency in God’s book. And Jesus died for the same people who are causing you trouble right now.
Whether they might be an old friend,
an in-Law… or even if you feel like God himself has wronged you.
Experience forgiveness today.
It starts with your sins being forgiven by the Father first, so then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you can forgive others and reveal Christ by doing so.
Don’t get stuck being someone else’s jailer. Don’t hold people in prison until they have paid you back like the unforgiving servant, (it’s impossible to pay back a debt and be in jail at the same time) and let them spend eternity in this prison cell called a grudge.
Let go, or else you will be stuck down in prison right there with them too.
Experience freedom today.
With God, all things are possible, even if it’s not easy.
In love and truth,
Copyright © 2020 by Melody Turner. All rights reserved. Written exclusively for MXTV (https://mxtv.org/the-prison-of-unforgiveness/) No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from MXTV.