Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” “Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
Peter ask Jesus a familiar question we have all probably thought at some time. Jesus answers Peter question with a parable explaining God’s standard for forgiveness. You can read Matthew 18:23-35 to hear the account word for word, but I will give you a synopsis of the parable. Jesus describes a king who wished to settle a debt that one of his slaves owed him. When the king asked for the money the slave didn’t have the money, so the king was going to sell the slave and his family and all he had for the repayment of the debt. The slave pleaded with the king to show mercy asking for some time to repay the debt. The king extended mercy because he felt compassion for the slave. The slave in turn goes and demands repayment of a debt another fellow slave owed him. When that other slave could not pay the debt he owed, the first slave began to choke his fellow slave demanding his money! When his fellow slave asked for mercy the other slave was unwilling to extend mercy. Word got back to the king about what happened and the king calls the slave to him and tells him, “You wicked slave, I forgave all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?” The king then hands the slave over to be tortured until he repays his debt to the king. Jesus concludes this parable with “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
You may be reading this and thinking, “That’s a hard pill to swallow.” I know I could go in so many directions with this passage about forgiveness, but the way that God has been speaking to me about this passage is so different from how I have ever viewed it before. I just want to share with you today about what God has been stirring in my heart about forgiveness.
The last two chapters that I have been working on in my book have stirred up a lot of memories from the past. Since my book is a memoir of the work God has done in my own life, I have had to go back and replay those memories. Sometimes it is fun to get nostalgic and go back to a season of “the good old days” and then other times the “good” falls out and you would rather not go back to those “old days.”
It has been such a blessing to sit down at my computer and ask God to provide the words that need to be written and then my mind is flooded with all these thoughts and memories that He provides as pertinent information for these chapters. Some days it is easy to type those memories out and other days I cringe within as old feelings of shame try to reappear in my mind from those memories. I end up getting mad at my old self, and my self-talk sounds something like this, “Why did you do that?” What were you thinking?” Why didn’t you just keep your mouth shut?” “Things could have been a lot better if you would have never done some of those things!”
I know these painful thoughts are not from God but instead it is just the enemy trying to stir up crap! If I do not have my guard up then I will end up holding a grudge against old self. I will say these negative phrases to the “me” of the past refusing to let myself off the hook. I will tell myself, “You should have known better.” In the past I have let these thoughts consume me, and I have not been willing to forgive myself for those bad memories. Lately those thoughts keep tying to pop back up. When this happens you and I have got to practice 2 Corinthians 10:5,
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.”
This phrase “take every thought captive” actually means to stick a spear in it and hold it under Christ. So every thought that we have that comes against what God says about us we have got to jab it with a spear and bring it to God and make it obey God! You need two key things though to do this, you have got to know what God’s word says about you and you have got to be able to recognize who’s feeding you the lines you are hearing.
Our church has an amazing ministry called “Freedom in Christ.” This ministry is about helping Christians realize that through Christ alone they are made righteous. When we accept Jesus as our savior we become as righteous as we will ever be. We cannot become any more or less righteous. Jesus blood cleanses us from all of our unrighteousness and he gives us a new beginning. You cannot work to become more righteous, every qualification for righteousness was completed through Jesus at the cross. This is such a powerful ministry and one that I enjoy participating in. In one of the ministry sessions participants are lead to imagine that they were sitting across from their self from the past. During this time participants are asked, “If you could say one thing to the old you, what would that be?” Then the participants are challenged to forgive their old self.
The most recent “Freedom In Christ” that we had, I was imagining that I was looking at the old me. All of the feelings and thoughts that I shared with you earlier flooded my mind. As I sat their looking at myself the scripture in Matthew 18 came to my mind. God had forgiven me of everything! Even while I was still in my sin He chose to forgive me. His work on the cross made me righteous, forgiven, free and spotless. I had a debt that I could not pay back and God in His mercy forgave my debt because of Christ. When I read this scripture in the past I have thought about all of the other people that have wronged me that God has helped me forgive, but that night God showed me that I was acting like the wicked slave towards my old self. For years I had been listening to the condemning words the enemy had been speaking about the old me. Because of that I had not let my old self off the hook. God had forgiven me then and now, why couldn’t I do the same thing.
That night I told the old me, “I forgive you.” So recently in my writing when the enemy brings all of those condemning thoughts to my mind and that I should beat my old self up again, I have been jabbing a spear into that thought, bringing it to Christ and making that thought obedient. I just keep reminding myself of truth of who I am in Christ and telling the old me “I forgive you.”
Holding onto unforgiveness has so many negative effects on your emotional, spiritual and physical health. I know how hard it is to forgive yourself or someone that has hurt you, I have experienced both . We often think it isn’t far to let a person off the hook for what they did to hurt us, we want to get back at them and make them pay. Although, the only person that keeps getting hurt is yourself. The quickest way to begin healing those wounds of past hurts is through forgiving those who inflicted them. It is not your job to try to make someone pay for the pain they might have caused you. Let God take care of it. Think about this, if holding a grudge and resentment towards someone who has hurt you has not given you the results you have been wanting, then that way is probably not working! If you want a different result, then try a different method. I know sometimes God’s method of doing things may not always make sense, but trust Him, He created you, He knows what’s best for you, He knows how to bring the healing your heart needs from the past hurts.
Forgiving yourself or someone is a choice you have to make. Often times it is a daily choice, but it is a choice you will not regret. Choosing to forgive is also following in the foot steps of Christ, he gave us an example to live by while he was experiencing the greatest pain in history. Jesus knows the effect of hurts. And if you don’t think you are strong enough to extend forgiveness then ask God to help you, He will. God wants us to live in freedom from past hurts not to live in bondage to them. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free: therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Today if you need to let yourself off the hook for any past hurts, sit down and do it. If you need to forgive someone else sit down and talk to God so He can help you forgive them, then extend forgiveness. When the enemy tries to tempt you to hold on to unforgiveness, jab it with a spear and make it obey Christ.