This is a familiar phrase which many of us will know as part of the Lord’s Prayer.
Forgiveness is a key part of Jesus’s teaching. It is included in the prayer he taught us to pray.
Forgiveness is a very important aspect of leading a healthy spirit filled life. It is mentioned 56 times in the NewTestament and 68 times in the Old.
This weekend we are remembering Jesus’s suffering and his excrutiatingly painful death on the cross. Yet as he hung there he was able to say “Father forgive them for they no not what they do” indeed he shed his blood for the forgiveness of all of our sins.
But what does it mean to forgive? A definition of forgiveness could be- giving up the right to get our own back on the one who has hurt us. To wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. Forgiveness is a choice to keep no record of wrongs.
Forgiveness is the key to God’s blessing. Forgiveness and repentance open up our hearts to allow the river of God to flow freely in us and overflow into those around us.
Many people can live a life of unwellness because they are not able to forgive those who have hurt them. They say things like, “He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven,” or “I can’t forgive him. You don’t know what he did to me.” It’s true, we may not know the full horror of what has been done to them, and from a purely human perspective the perpetrator doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. But neither do we deserve to be forgiven. And yet God in His love forgives us; and it cost Him the life of His Son. We sent him to the cross and yet he was able to say, “forgive them [and that includes you and I] for they no not what they do.” So forgiveness and love go hand in hand together.
When we don’t forgive those who have hurt us we may become full of bitterness and resentment over what has been done to us. These things spoil our lives and may cause disease. Some people deliberately choose to hang on to resentment and bitterness. But all the time they do so, they are in torment and can become physically and mentally sick.
When we say, “I hate so and so and never want to see him again; he deserves what he gets.” we are making a judgement that is rooted in that bitterness and we are stepping back into spiritual legality that has the power to demand justice and payment for our own sins as well. Surely it is far better to show mercy rather than demand justice. Lord, let mercy triumph over judgement. In combination with God’s love for you and I and those who have hurt us, mercy becomes easy to give. In his agony Jesus was still able to reach out and show mercy and by implication forgiveness to the thief on the cross.
In Ephes.4:31-32, Paul instructs us to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of unforgiveness and unkindness(v32) – it is these things that bring about petrification of the spirit.
Modern psychology also shows that it is these things that often cause physical illness. Unresolved anger and bitterness can lower the immune system and reduce the bodies defences against infections and disease.
Nothing contributes more to sickness than resentment, and more to healing than forgiveness. When we forgive we are not saying that what was done to us doesn’t matter. We are not forgiving them to let them off the hook; we are forgving them because God says we are to do so in his love, and also the parable of the unmerciful servant. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” “No not seven times,” answered Jesus, ”but seventy times seven, because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants accounts. He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him 10,000 talents. The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘be patient with me,’ he begged, and I will pay you everything!’ The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.
“Then the man went out and met one of his felllow servants who owed him a hundred denari. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ ‘he said. His fellow-servant fell down and begged him, ‘be patient with me and I will pay you back!’ But he refused; instead had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. You should have had mercy on your fellow-servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished [some versions say tortured] until he should pay back the whole amount.” And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart.” ( Matthew 18:21-35)
We need to forgive because God has forgiven us through the sacrificial death of his son-Jesus. We all need to receive the forgiveness of God again and again.
2. Receiving Forgiveness.
Forgiveness of our sin is our greatest need without we are living a futile life which is incapable of bringing happiness. Bur merciful forgiveness must be followed by reconciliation.
In 1942 Eric Lomax was taken prisoner and with others sent to build the Thai-Burma Railway. In 1972 Eric returns and in the Thai-Burma Railway Museum meets the man, Takashi Nagase, who was complicit in his and his friends’ merciless torture. There is a emotional filled scene where Takashi asks for forgiveness and Eric in giving it. They both hug reconciliation and healing begins.
Receiving forgiveness from God is the first step toward our own healing. It is interesting that in the Lord’s prayer the request to God to forgive us our trespasses comes first before ‘as we forgive others’. Forgiveness by God is freely given before we even ask for it. Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified Him because they did not know what they were doing.
Story of the paralysed man on a stretcher is recorded in both Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26. Once the dust had settled, on seeing their faith Jesus’s first words are “Cheer up(take heart) your sins are forgiven you.” He doesn’t say “Cheer up you are healed.” Here we find Jesus meeting a man’s spiritual need first. Because he knew that forgiveness was the road to health & happiness.
We must trust in Jesus Christ his person and his work. He died that we might be forgiven. By his blood we are forgiven and healed.
Do you recognise areas of your past life where you need forgiveness, do you feel undeserving of God’s forgiveness and don’t believe you can receive it? Rom 3:22-25. ‘God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. But by the free Gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. God offered him, so that by his sacrificial death he should become the means by which people’s sins are forgiven through faith in him.’ Wow
3. Accepting God’s Forgiveness
But let us first ask God to forgive us also for the hurts we have caused others. Having asked God for his forgiveness let us receive it as a Gift from him.
Many of us find that this is the most difficult part. We find it difficult to forgive ourselves. But there is so much encouragement in those words: “Cheer up!” “Take heart.” John records Jesus saying elsewhere Jn16:33b “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Why do we find it more difficult to forgive ourselves?
An Austrian psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frank says that it is difficult for us to forgive ourselves because of the power of guilt. Authentic guilt he says is a negative emotion experienced by the conscience that passes a personal moral judgement on itself. This is something that is peculiar to human nature and perhaps Christians are more vulnerable to it than most. Nature does not forgive which is why it is difficult for us to forgive ourselves. This can lead us into unhappiness and illness. God addresses this when he says to the paralytic man “your sins are forgiven you.” And he says that to you and me. Why be burdened with personal guilt – why not accept the gift that God in his love and mercy has given you in the forgiveness wrought for us by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.It’s almost an affront to God NOT to accept it!
Having accepted that gift, then if we have wronged another we should not only ask God for forgiveness but also seek forgiveness and reconciliation from any individuals involved.
Because Forgiveness is the key to inner healing which is necessary for physical well being & happiness; but we only receive healing ourselves when we forgive others who have hurt us paving the way for their inner healing.
Maybe you are someone who finds it difficult to accept his gift of forgiveness for you or you find it difficult to forgive someone who has hurt you. Turn to Jesus in prayer and put all your burdens at the feet of Jesus and knowing his forgiveness, open you heart to healing & transforming power of his holy spirit who can lead you into the forgiving and healing arms of Christ.
Lord we ask you to help us to let mercy triumph over judgement. You have forgiven us all this great debt of our personal sin. Now that you have given us the keys to the kingdom, help us to forgive everybody who owes us anything or has hurt us in any way
So at this time of Easter let’s take a moment to examine our life. Are there any deep seated resentments and unforgiveness that you need to address.? Give the Holy Spirit permission to bring to mind the things that need to be resolved in your hurts. Invite Jesus into those areas and ask him to help you to forgive. This is also the first step to receiving Jesus’s healing touch.
You may like to pray this prayer.
Heavenly father, thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ, to save me, to forgive me my sin, to die in my place. Lord Jesus Christ, I believe in you by the faith you have given me. Save me O Lord, forgive all my sins. Cleanse me from all unrightiousness. Make me a new creation. Heal my soul. Heal my body. Heal my mind.
Jesus says to you and me “Sons, daughters rejoice your sins are forgiven. Rise up and walk home.” Praise you heavenly Father for hearing our prayers, for filling us with peace, for removing the burden of sin and guilt and taking it with you to the cross; setting us free.