Pastor Rachael Chinnery Todman
Forgiveness, Part 1
Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25
Much has been written on this subject—the subject of forgiveness.
I will attempt to share a tidbit of some things I have learned along life’s journey about the subject of forgiveness and its freeing power to heal. Let us begin with the words of Jesus Christ in his lesson on prayer. Please read the text: Matthew 6:14 and Mark 11:25.
Jesus, in the model prayer in Matthew chapter six told us to ask God the Father “forgive me as I forgive the other.” Of all the prayer points in this prayer, Jesus highlighted forgiveness. Jesus wants us to understand that God forgives us our sins as we forgive others who have sinned against us.
When a person chooses not to forgive it is a sure sign that inner suffering will result. When we think of suffering we think of the outer physical body. However, I have seen first-hand what unforgiveness can do to a person who refuses to let the other person off the hook through forgiveness. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness, fear, anxious thoughts, hate, anger, blame and sometimes vengeance. Unforgiveness affects our soul which can result in yes, physical illness.
I have had the holy privilege to walk with a person several years ago who was suffering a physical illness that the doctors could not diagnose. I spent eight weeks talking and listening to this person and found out that her heart and mind was filled with anger, bitterness, and fear. The more I listened to her story the net result was her unwillingness to forgive some things that had happened to her in her most important relationship. This woman was almost paralyzed from unforgiveness. I am happy to report at the end of eight weeks, she was free and her death sentence turned into a life sentence.
As Christians, we can fool ourselves into thinking that holding on to unforgiveness is cute and that we have a right to do so, but Jesus said it is a hindrance to our prayer life and science has proven that it is a death trap for the human soul and body. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. In light of loving, forgiveness is the willingness to let go of the hurt, of the anger and bitterness that has taken place in the past.
An incident took place in my life when I was in bible school. I do not recall the name of the class at the time, but I shared a personal story of what someone had done to me. And one of my classmates said, “she has unforgiveness in her heart.” At that moment I became quite defensive and angry in denying that charge. However, as I left class that night I kept thinking about what was said to me. When I got in bed that night I turned my thoughts to the incident and I kept hearing the charge that was laid against me. So I had no better sense than to talk to God about it.
As the Apostle, Paul said, “I don’t know if I was in my body or not,” but as I laid there, I felt when God opened my chest cavity and reached His hand into my heart and pulled out that bitterness, anger and that unforgiveness and I felt free. This incident and others like it has taught me that love is stronger than hate and that forgiveness is a healer of the soul.
I have also found out that one of the greatest hindrances to our prayers being answered is unforgiveness. Do you want your prayers answered? I am sure you do. Let me encourage you to search your heart and your mind to see if you are hindering your prayers by unforgiveness. If you are unable to search your own heart and mind, ask God the Holy Spirit to help you to search your heart to see if you are harboring any bitterness and unforgiveness.
Another hindrance to our prayer life is the negative scripts we keep replaying over and over in our minds. That incident you are replaying in your mind is robbing you of peace in the precious present. The purpose of forgiveness is to free us from the past. Forgiveness is to free us from grievances and grudges we have with the other person. As the famous phrase states, “let it go” tear up the I.O.U. Adopt an attitude of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a decision of the will. It is tearing up the I.O.U. forgiveness is not from our emotions, it is not a feeling it is an act of will. When we do not forgive we place ourselves in bondage. On the other hand, forgiveness breaks us free from the bondage of anger, hurt feelings and eventually, the memories will fade.
Albeit, I.O.U’s are legal things that you have against a person. But God has I.O.U against you. So if you and I want God to forgive us we must tear up the IOU’S and God will tear up the I.O.U’s He has against us.
Talking about tearing up I.O.U’s. I remember having to tear up an I.O.U. Many years ago, one of my daughters was dating my friend’s son. And he told her something that his parents said about me. Needless to say, I got angry because these people were considered my friends. Long story short, I cut off the friendship in my mind without telling them. I kept replaying it in my mind. As time went on, an opportunity presented itself that I had no valid excuse not to accept an invitation to their home for dinner. I made up my mind that I would go but not eat. Here is a powerful lesson I learned that day. I sat at that table with anger and resentment in my heart. The food looked and smelled delicious so I decided to taste it. Listen, as soon as I placed the fork to my mouth the anger and resentment vanished from my heart and I felt free.
The lesson I learned that night was about the healing power of the communion table. Sharing a meal at the table with others has healing powers. A communion table is a place of remembrance, a place for reflection, a place to forgive those who trespass against us. It is also a place to receive forgiveness reminding us that God has forgiven us in Christ Jesus at the Cross. At the table everyone is on the same level because everyone at the table needs the sustenance the food offers. The realization of this truth freed me to the point that I was able to talk about my resentment with them and finally got the story straight and our relationship was restored to this present day. “And forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.”
Our heavenly Father does not want us in the bondage of unforgiveness. He wants us free because he loves us and has provided a way of escape from the bondage of sin and shame. Step into the peaceful present and receive the grace of God’s love and forgiveness and in so doing, you will be free to release love and grace to those who trespass against you.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, I ask you right now Father to enlighten my heart in Your name. Speak to my heart and show me the areas in my heart of unforgiveness and bitterness against anyone. Holy and One Lord, I now lay down and renounce right now resentment, unforgiveness and bitterness. Father, I set my will to forgive those who have harmed me or wronged me as I would have You Father God to forgive me. Lord I forgive them in your name Lord Jesus and I believe that You have forgiven me. Thank You Lord in Jesus name.
Next time: Stepping Stones to Forgiveness