How to Forgive
Forgive. How many times? Wrong question. Forgive. What did the King do? Right question. You may be thinking, "What are you talking about?" I am talking about when someone in the church has hurt you and you are trying to make restitution. The reason I am talking in these terms is because of what Jesus taught his followers about dealing with church hurt. Instead of talking about forgiving, he told a story about a man who owed a King lots of gold. Way too much to ever pay back. And when the King had mercy on this man and canceled his debt, the man went out and demanded people who owed him silver pay it back. The mercy that was shown to this man, this man did not show to others. And the King, when he found out what this man did, well, the mercy was over. The King called him wicked, threw him into jail, and had him tortured. Then Jesus drops the bomb, anyone who does not cancel the debt for others, well, God is coming after you. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself in Matthew 18:35.
When someone hurts you in the church, they take something from you. They create a debt. They may have taken your trust, security, hope, dreams, purity, confidence, self-worth, or peace. They could have taken just about anything. And when people take something from us, the question we ask is, "How do I get it back?" Which often is impossible and usually leads us down the road of bitterness.
But God has better for us. This is why Jesus tells us the story because when it comes to people who hurt us in the church, Jesus wants us to focus on a different question, “What did the King do?” He canceled all the debt, a debt greater than the man could ever pay back. So forgiveness is not about saying it's all okay, you didn’t hurt me, you didn't take something from me, or everything is fine. When someone hurts you, it’s not fine. What forgiveness is all about is canceling the debt. So, "Why would I do that?"
Because I have sinned. You have sinned. And God knew we would sin and likely will sin again and bottom line - when we sin we hurt God. We take away from our relationship with Him and others. We create a debt, one we can never pay back. But God sent His Son to die for our sins anyway. God showed great mercy, canceling all of our sin debt on the cross. And in the shadow of the cross you and I are commanded to forgive one another. He has not asked us to die, but to cancel the debt of those who hurt us. So, at Calvary, we lost our right to refuse to cancel the debt.
So Jesus is saying to us, you are wicked like the wicked servant if you forget the mercy you have been shown. And mercy is not giving what people what they deserve, but giving them what they do not deserve. So when it comes to people who have hurt us in the church, we could ...
• wish they fail
• wish they get hurt
• wish they get what they did to us
• wish people would see them for who we think the really are
• wish and wish, but that won’t do us any good
As long as we do that, we will simply be choosing to live in jail, tortured by our own unwillingness to cancel the debt. And this is not what God wants for you or me. This is why God is so direct and harsh with us when it comes to forgiving our brother or sister from the heart. Because God knows failing to cancel the debt will ultimately destroy our lives.
Scripture: Matthew 18:35 (NIV)
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
"Father, I have been punishing people who hurt me by not canceling their debt. Lord, I recognize at Calvary I lost my right to not forgive. Thank you for forgiving me of all my sins. Lord, I have been harboring anger in my heart against (name them). I feel robbed, they took this from me (name it). Right now, I choose to cancel the debt. They don’t owe me anymore. Please allow my painful memories to remind me of your grace of forgiveness in my life. In Jesus Name, Amen."