Summary: The funny thing about forgiveness is that it doesn’t just set them free, it sets you free, too. It frees you from the acid of resentment. It allows the wound to begin healing.
Mary Karr’s uncle had endured all he could stand! The tall Texan grabbed his chain saw and began to split his own house into two halves. He was sick and tired of living with such an unforgiving woman to whom he had not spoken in months. He had enough. He divided his house and moved her portion a few hundred feet away. The two of them finished their days on earth living on the same farm, in the same house… living two very separate lives.
That sad-but-true story is all too real in our community. Many husbands and wives, moms and dads, will park their cars in the same garage, pillow their head under the same roof, eat from the same refrigerator—yet live two separate lives. How does this happen? Why do we continue to put ourselves and our families through this? Plain and simple, the reason is: unforgiveness.
1- SET FREE
To forgive someone is to set them free. We set them free of the penalty and debt that they owe us. When you have been wronged, something has been taken from you, someone has damaged you, injured you, or taken advantage of you—the greatest thing you will ever do is to let go. To forgive. To set them free. It’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Even though we know it’s the right thing to do, that doesn’t mean we will—sometimes I want to forgive and feel like I can’t! It’s not just a switch that I can flip and just, poof, there it is. It’s not that easy, and God knows that! He understands, that’s why He always links your decision to forgive another to a motivator (blessing) or a consequence (curse). (Read Matthew 6:14-15 for a compelling example.)
The funny thing about forgiveness is that it doesn’t just set them free, it sets you free, too. It frees you from the acid of resentment. It allows the wound to begin healing. When you forgive, you release yourself from negative emotions that will hold you hostage. The Bible is very clear about how bitterness will continue to cut and hurt your spirit (Hebrews 12:15). But that’s not all… the Scriptures teach that if the grudge isn’t dealt with, it’s toxins will leak out of our lives and ruin those closest to us.
2- FORGIVING YOURSELF
People like Oprah and Dr. Phil are mainstreaming the idea that we cannot truly forgive anyone else unless we first forgive ourselves. We have all tried to apologize to someone only to have them refuse it. I have longed to say that I’m sorry after it’s too late and they’re gone. I know what it’s like to need to hear that I’m forgiven and to never have the satisfaction. And that’s why I can’t stop punishing myself for my mistakes.
The reason that it’s so hard to forgive yourself is because it’s impossible! You and I can’t set ourselves free—no more than a prisoner can will himself outside of the bars and razor-wire. Freedom must come from a higher authority—from God. The Bible never mentions forgiving yourself. Not one time. Our need is forgiveness, but not the kind you can give yourself… but the freedom that God gives.
Matthew 18:21-35 tells the story of a servant who owed the king $15 million—but was totally forgiven. He could not repay, yet due to the kindness of the King, he would not have to! This servant then went out found a fellow-servant, grabbed him by the throat, and demanded $5,000 from him. Since the debtor could not repay, he was cast into prison. When the King heard the news, He demanded that his servant be brought to Him. Since this man received grace and forgiveness, yet could not grant the same, he would be judged.
You and I have been totally forgiven. Our sins have been paid for. That’s why Jesus Christ died on the cross—to suffer the punishment that you and I deserve. Just like He accepted the blame so that we would not have to, we must accept what He did as the payment for our sins. I met a man a few months ago that told me he was good enough to get to heaven. It shocked me! He said that he was a good man—better than most — and that he thought that was enough. I asked him, “If we can be good enough to get to Heaven, then why did Jesus have to die?” He replied, “That’s easy, for the bad ones.” What he was saying was that he did not need (nor accept) what Jesus did for him. He did not want God’s charity (Romans 5:8). Until we experience God’s forgiveness, we will never be able to forgive those who hurt us.
REMEMBER THE DUCK
On impulse, Billy pulled back and let the slingshot go—killing his target, Grandma’s pet duck. He panicked and hid the dead duck under the woodpile only to look up and see his sister, Sally, silently watching with a sly grin.