2. WHAT IS FORGIVENESS? WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
Forgiveness is essential to any growing, healthy and lasting relationship. In fact, the plan of God has all to do with forgiveness. Jesus came to pay the debt of our sin on the cross making peace with God.
Now the Lord wants us to receive the forgiveness that Jesus purchased on the cross for us! He also wants us to give forgiveness to others. Jesus taught us to pray “...forgive us our debts and we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matt. 6:12) “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32. Forgiveness is one of the greatest needs that we all have: both receiving it and giving it to others!
But there is a lot of confusion surrounding the issue of forgiveness and for many it is a daunting and discouraging reality to experience. What often is not underscored is that one of the main reasons the Lord commands us to forgive others is so that we are no longer under the power and injury of the injustice that we have experienced. In other words – receiving and giving forgiveness – is a main way the Lord heals you and brings wholeness to your life!
When an injury or injustice is not replaced with forgiveness, the consequence is that it morphs into worse realities; such as bitterness which has a defiling impact that potentially effects relationships in our life: family members, friends, co-workers and fellow church members. In other words, the person who is harboring bitterness in “Area A” of their life, will inevitably transfer unresolved issues and frustrations into the lives of “Area B” that have nothing to do with Area A! There is a potential for “relationship rage” with those who harbor bitterness!
Some facts about bitterness ...
• Bitterness has been medically linked to glandular problems, high blood pressure, cardiac disorders, ulcers, and depression.
• One leading psychiatrist wrote, “90% of all people in insane asylums could be released immediately if they would learn how to forgive, or how to be forgiven.”
• Where there’s bitterness, there’s discouragement. Bitterness leads to paranoia. You start to develop a victim’s mentality -- which leaves you thinking that everyone is out to get you. You become negative, critical, and paranoid. You become judgmental of others and think you know their motives. You think people are talking about you. A victim’s mentality is a habit of thinking that justifies not moving forward in one’s life in health and healing. It’s a mentality that paralyzes progress!
Such thinking produces thoughts such as:
“I have been injured” -- “Life has not turned out as I hoped” -- “I will hold my injury or what is the perceived injustice toward me wherever I go” -- “I will be bitter that such circumstances took place in my life” -- “I will choose to not go forward because I have been mistreated” -- “I will allow my pain to paralyze my progress”...
Can you better understand why Jesus asked a paralyzed man, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6). It sounds odd to us, but the fact is there are some people don’t want to change and be healed. The lack of growth and spiritual paralyses has become a friend.
What’s the answer? The injury and the bitterness that often accompanies it, needs to be replaced with intentional and proactive forgiveness, kindness, faith and love!
What is forgiveness?
1) Forgiveness is remembering how much you’ve been forgiven. (Ephesians 4:32)
2) Forgiveness is relinquishing your right to get even. (Romans 12:19)
God is in the avenging business, not you! “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is MINE, I WILL REPAY, says the Lord!” (Romans 12:19)
3) Forgiveness is responding to evil with good.
“Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”. (Luke 6:27-28)
4) Forgiveness begins “vertically” by saying, “Lord I forgive them ... I choose to release that person from their debt!” and it translates “horizontally” with kindness.
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
5) Forgiveness is repeating the process as long as necessary. (Matthew 18:21-22)
6) Forgiveness does not mean, however, that trust is restored. The restoring of trust takes time.
What is the difference between un-forgiveness and forgiveness?
• “You OWE me” vs. “You DON’T owe me”...
• “I’m going to make you pay for what you did by hating you, slandering you, and returning in kind what you did to me” vs. “I’m not looking for payment of any kind...”
• “I’m going to recruit other people to participate in my bitterness” vs. “I’m not trying to even the score ...”
• “In the end I will get my revenge” vs. “I’m writing it off; I’m letting it go...”
• “I will make you regret your actions” vs. “God didn’t make me so cold to carry all this..”
Remember, one of the chief reasons the Lord commands you to forgive, is to ensure that you are no longer under the injury and injustice that you have experienced. The Lord loves you and His love is protective!