Freedom is something we take for granted. But talk with a man who was behind prison walls for most of his life. He will say that every breath, or sight of a blue sky, brings joy and excitement. Some believers have lived in bondage to unforgiveness and have almost forgotten the peace and joy of a life that forgives others.
The Good News of Jesus not only sets our consciences free from dead works and sins committed in the past, but it can also keep us clean and free of bitterness and unforgiveness in the present.
We will look at two keys to being free: blessing others and praying the Lord’s Prayer.
Blessing Like Joseph
Many of us have heard the dramatic story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. This young man was abused and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He suffered greatly in prison and in other circumstances. Finally, in an amazing turn of events, God brought him to a great place of prominence where he became one of the most powerful people in the known world. Many of us have had terrible things done to us in this life, and if we have not, just wait, it is coming.
This world is full of hurting lives that have been sinned against in great ways. Joseph had a terrible thing done to him. His brothers even contemplated murdering him in the beginning. Now he was in the position and had the power to exact perfect vengeance to them. But what did he do? He forgave them completely. He actually was in such a place of realizing God’s grace that he did not even bring up any of their sins and details of what they did. He just wanted to bless them! Jesus teaches us to bless our enemies (Matthew 5:44), to bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28, Romans 12:14), to “never avenge yourselves” (Romans 12:19). Joseph does not tell his brothers that he was the “one you sold into Egypt” to condemn them. Rather, he really wanted them to know he was their brother and that he loved them greatly still. How do we get to the place where we can bless others in the body of Christ who sin against us? How can we even get to the place where we can forgive enemies and bless them?
We are called to forgive but blessing seems like it’s too much. When we forgive at times we still secretly hope they will be exposed or judged for their sin, or that, at the judgment seat, they will get what’s coming to them. Such thinking is not forgiveness but a form of vengeance masked in a guise of spiritual humility. When we truly forgive someone as Christ forgives us, we need to come to the place where we can bless them and desire God’s blessing also on their lives.
Do you realize God will actually bless your enemies and pour his grace and favour on their lives?
Think of someone that you have ought against. Picture their face. Do you want that person to be blessed? It takes brokenness to bless others who hurt you. Joseph went through terrible circumstances but God was bringing him to a place of nothingness where he could share in the sufferings of Christ and have the heart of God. In the end when we bless and forgive others we will be blessed by God himself. God wants to anoint those who are free from bitterness in their Christian lives.
Perhaps its as simple as praying a prayer to God, “Lord please bless that person” (The person’s name).
Reciting the Lord’s Prayer
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Many godly believers in the past have recommended praying the Lord’s prayer multiple times a day. In many Church traditions, every Sunday the Lord’s prayer is recited. In the underground North Korean Church, they put emphasis on reciting the Lord’s Prayer together.
One of the benefits of this practice is that you can check your heart daily to see if you have any unforgiveness towards someone since our Lord shows us that we should expect God to forgive our debts as we also have done to others. Some brothers and sisters claim that they do not have unforgiveness towards an individual but their actions show they do have this poison still lurking within them.
The Lord has forgiven us and does not hold or accuse us over sins that have been forgiven, but when we say we forgive others, we still hold their sins to the light. Such is not true forgiveness. Only God is the one that can truly help someone that has sinned. When humans try to fix a problem without God it ends up getting much worse. When we forgive others, we also release ourselves from bondage and open the door for God to bring healing to our heart. When we hold onto bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, we can suffer throughout life with problems and end up hurting ourselves much more.
John Chrysostom says,
“Just as maniacs, who never enjoy tranquility, so also he who is resentful and retains an enemy will never have the enjoyment of any peace; incessantly raging and daily increasing the tempest of his thoughts calling to mind his words and acts, and detesting the very name of him who has aggrieved him. Do you but mention his enemy, he becomes furious at once, and sustains much inward anguish; and should he chance to get only a bare sight of him, he fears and trembles, as if encountering the worst evils. Yet for the very torment resulting from the thing itself we ought to forgive the offences of those who have aggrieved us. What can be more senseless than the man, who both here and there brings punishment upon himself, while he thinks to be revenged upon his enemy?”
The Amplified Bible translation says, “Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14). You cannot have forgiveness towards others and gossip about them.
To bless is to speak well of them; to curse is to speak in a wrong, accusing way. When we carry resentment for feeling we have been unfairly treated by another in the body of Christ we end up putting ourselves in harm’s way as well as hurting others. Unforgiveness is spiritual filthiness, a poison for your soul, a prison of torment. Forgive and give the individual to God and even have the grace to love and accept the individual again.
Being Set Free
Sometimes in life we live in such pain or have such ailments and problems that the thought of being free of it seems absurd. We start to normalize that which is abnormal. To hold unforgiveness is abnormal and, perhaps, through reading this short volume you have seen this afresh. Do not let the enemy of your soul, Satan, speak his lie that you cannot forgive or be forgiven.
Review and start to practice these steps daily:
1. Consider the coming of the Lord and that we should not be caught in unforgiveness with others (James 5:9).
2. Remember how much Christ suffered for you in the flesh and how we mar and hurt our Lord himself when we hold to bitterness (Ephesians 4:30-31).
3. Think on how much you sin and how terrible your sins are, judging yourself, not others (James 4:11-12).
4. Choose to bless (Romans 12:14) those who hurt you, praying for them and asking God to help them and show his grace to them.
5. Daily (perhaps 3 times a day), say the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) out loud with meaning.
6. Choose not to slander to speak evil of anyone (Colossians 3:8).
Lord, we come to You honestly with a broken heart, realizing that we have held things against those whom you have fully forgiven.
Your servants in the Bible have gone through much greater problems than we have ever had to face. You saw them through their trials and difficulties, hurts and pains.
Thank You for Your promise that you have forgiven all of our debts as we forgive our debtors. We choose today to forgive those who have hurt us in anyway.
Give us the ability to choose to always forgive and release others. Please bring back the peace in our life that was filled with bitterness and hurt. Help us to stay close to You and not stray in our hearts. We pray for the grace to find freedom from all forgiveness in our lives.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen.