DID YOU KNOW (4)
…That you cannot forgive without compassion.
Many, if not most people struggle to forgive. Some even refuse to forgive the offense of another, choosing to allow bitterness to destroy them and all their relationships rather than to let go and be free.
Someone once said that harbouring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
In His model prayer, Jesus highlighted two things that will destroy us. The first is the refusal to forgive.
And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt. 6:12).
Forgiving our debtor is the only thing that will free us from being eaten alive from the inside out by our bodies’ response to bitterness. Our bodies, souls, and spirits function as a unit. Our emotions which come out of what we think and believe, produce physical reactions which, if sustained over a long period of time, will gradually destroy our organs and shorten our lives.
God designed our bodies to functional optimally when our hearts and minds are at peace and we can only have sustained peace when we have no issues with God or other people. Jesus took care of our issues with God, removing the barrier of sin and reconciling us to the Father through His shed blood. He also took care of the barrier between us and other people in the same way.
But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Jesus. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups (Jew and Gentile) one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which He put to death their hostility (Eph. 2:13-16).
He has given us the right and privilege of forgiving our debtors because He has already forgiven all the debt of sin, ours and theirs. When we choose not to forgive, we are punishing them again for the sin that has already been punished.
The second thing that will destroy us is our self-centredness and all the ramifications of selfish living.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one (Matt. 6: 13).
Unfortunately, misunderstanding of this Scripture has led us to believe that the devil is our main problem. He may influence us towards evil, but we are actually our own worst enemies. We are not Satan’s victims unless we allow Him to control us by believing His lies. Jesus exposed His deception and defeated him at the cross. Our own selfish pride, not the devil, causes us the most trouble. Living in dependence on the Father, not by our own wisdom and wits, will keep us walking in humility and freedom from the destruction we cause ourselves by our arrogant independence.
Let’s go back to the issue of forgiveness. In response to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus told a story about a king who called his servants to account for the debts they owed him (Matt 18:21-35).
Peter thought he was being magnanimous by forgiving his brother seven times for the same sin. Jesus pointed out that it was not how many times he forgave his brother that was important but how he felt about his brother.
In the story, one servant owed the king such a vast sum of money that he would never be able to repay him in his lifetime. The king demanded payment or he, his wife and children and all his possession would be sold to repay the debt. The servant pleaded for time and promised to pay what he owed.
Imagine the scenario. A servant owed his master more money than he could earn in a lifetime and yet he promised to repay his debt! How would the king react? Would he close his heart to the servant’s plea and make his wife and family also pay for the servant’s folly? The entire story hinges on the next verse.
The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go (Matt. 18:27).
Perhaps for a moment, the king put himself in the servant’s place. Enslavement for the rest of his life was a horrible alternative. Instead of anger and revenge, his heart was filled with compassion. The servant’s wellbeing meant more to him than the money he owed. He responded to the compassion he felt by forgiving the servant, cancelling the debt and setting him free.
The same servant met a fellow servant who owed him a paltry amount. Instead of responding with the same compassion and mercy the king has shown him, he demanded immediate payment and refused to forgive as his master had forgiven him. Imagine the king’s outrage when he found out what the servant had done. Not only did he recall the debt but he also had the servant jailed and handed over to be tortured until he could pay.
What a terrible end for a man who refused to show mercy! The end to Jesus’ story is a chilling reminder of what happens to those who refuse to forgive.
This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart (Matt. 18:35).
Jesus was not only talking about the consequences of unforgiveness in the life to come. Torment begins now, in this life in many different ways, the physical, emotional and spiritual outcome of holding on to offenses.
The key issue is: How much do you value God’s mercy towards you? If you refuse to forgive, how can He show mercy to you? He must treat you in the same way as you treat others. You cannot expect one standard for God and another for yourself. You set the measure of grace you receive from Him by the way you choose to show grace to others. How do you feel about the one who has harmed you? Jesus shows us how to evaluate people who offend you:
Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23: 34).
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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