Think about a person you have difficulty in forgiving. Say to yourself: “It is not my responsibility to judge this person” and notice any changes in your feelings.
Review your feelings and reactions to when you think about a person you need to forgive. Notice where they seem to be coming from inside you. Notice in what ways you feel any heaviness, and see how much you can let go of the weight.
– Understand that the burden of forgiveness is on YOU.
– Understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget the lessons learned and shouldn’t guard against future transgressions.
– Understand that failure to let go of others’ transgressions drag you into your basement.
– Place your transgressions in perspective with those trangressions you feel have been made against you.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven, likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshiped him, saying, Lord have patience with me, and I will pay you all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. Matthew 18:23-27
But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Mark 11:26
Because the Lord is mercy itself, He forgives everyone‘s sins, and doesn‘t charge anyone with a single one. For He says, “They don‘t know what they are doing.“ But still this doesn‘t mean our sins are simply carried away. When Peter asked how many times he should forgive his brother‘s misdeeds, as many as seven times, the Lord said “I don‘t say to you seven times, but even up to seventy times seven times.“ (Matthew 18.21, 22) Why wouldn‘t the Lord do the same? True Christian Religion #539
When someone hurts us in some way, a message flashes inside our brain: “You will pay for this.” Together with this we have feelings of resentment and anger. We pull back and wait for some sign of repentance before we trust the person again.
In this you will notice that there are two sources of pain. The first is the blow itself. It could be a physical injury, an insult, theft, something wrong done to someone we love and so on. The second is the burden of inner feelings of resentment, bitterness and revenge.
Sometimes we even say things like: “I want you to suffer as much as you have made me suffer.” Usually it is more like: “I want you to suffer more than I did.”
I can remember my reaction to bullies when I was a kid. An older boy shoved me into the gutter. In my mind, I began picturing the bully being subjected to all kinds of torture and pain. I wanted him to get worse than I got. What would it take for us to let go of those inner feelings? Would we be satisfied if the person apologized? What would it take for us to erase the message: “You’ll pay for this”? Would we forgive the other people if we saw them in pain? Would they have to weep and grovel on the earth before we let go of our anger?
Forgiveness sometimes relates to very small incidents. I can remember being in a meeting where someone made an insulting remark about what I was doing. I was furious. In my heart I said: “I can’t forgive that.” The remark took only about twenty seconds to say.
I carried resentment about it for twenty years! The strange thing is that I somehow thought that I was punishing the other person for his remark. Who was I really punishing?
Suppose at the time I had said to a friend: “I am going to let that go. I forgive him.” The friend might have turned around and said: “You can’t let him get away with that kind of remark!” That is deadly advice. It encourages us to hold on to resentments for years.
In the diagram this resentment is like a ten-ton weight on our head. Forgiveness is a way of letting go of that burden of resentment. When we forgive we, in effect, say: “You don’t owe me anything. The debt is paid in full.” This is hard to do without prayer. One that I find helpful is: “Lord, forgive me for the many unkind things I have said to other people. Relieve me from bitterness about what other people have said to me.”
Jesus told a parable about this in which a servant owed the king 10,000 talents. A talent was a hundred pounds of silver. In today’s money ten thousand talents would amount to tens of millions of dollars. The servant pleaded with the king for patience. He promised to pay the entire debt (though how he could possibly do it is another question). Eventually the king “forgave” the debt. That means that he considered it paid in full.
But then this servant went out and refused to be merciful to a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii. A denarius was a day’s wage, so that it was not a small sum. In our money, a hundred denarii would be the money earned in about four months of work. Compared to ten thousand talents, it was nothing.
In the parable, he refused to be merciful to the servant who owed him one hundred denarii and threw him into prison. When the king heard, he was furious and reimposed the debt of ten thousand talents. (Matthew 18:21-35)
The amount owed to the servant by his fellow servant represents the injuries done to us by other people. They can be light or very serious. The 10,000 talents owed to the king refer to the indebtedness we have with our Creator.
In the case of my story, the 100 denarii debt was the unkind remark someone else made about what I was doing. What was the larger debt? The 10,000 talent debt was my twenty years of resentment. In the diagram, it is shown as a ten ton weight. How many ten ton weights do people carry around with them? By forgiving others, we also unburden ourselves.
A few years ago, I heard an interview on the radio. The woman being interviewed had been raped, and the rapist blinded her so that she could not testify against him.
I was amazed at her attitude. So was the interviewer. Finally he said: “This man did two terrible things to you, and yet you seem to be completely free of resentment.” The woman replied: “He had a half an hour of my life, and that is all he gets.” Evidently she had made a specific effort to let go of dwelling on him and his crime. In forgiving him she was freeing her life up to be about other things.
Forgiveness does not mean approval. It does not say: “What you did was all right.” It simply says: “I am not going to stand in judgment over you or wait for you to repay me for what you did.”
Does this mean that people should be allowed to get away with murder? No, there is value in having a criminal system with appropriate punishments. It means that we need to be willing to leave judgment to God. This is because we know our own faults and shortcomings. Instead of putting energy into keeping accounts about other people’s wrongs, we will put it into asking for God’s forgiveness for our many shortcomings and errors.
The Lord’s prayer includes the phrase: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. This implies that if we are not willing to forgive others, we are not in a position to ask for forgiveness. When we have been injured, instead of getting caught up in judgments and condemnation, we can use that as an opportunity to ask forgiveness for our own trespasses.