“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”1
As he hung there on the cross, Jesus revealed his ability to understand, that human thought is incapable of knowing how to do what is right without guidance from God. Only God has that ability to comprehend that our failure to know what is right also means that we often don’t know what we’re doing. I realize that although I’m not God, I tend to act like a little god when it comes to forgiving others. I hold on to those past hurts, offenses and grudges.
In my former way of thinking, I believed a person (or persons) needed to be punished for what they said or did to me. I took things personally, very personally! I wanted vengeance, I wanted to return the hurt and I wanted to know you were being punished severely. Although I’m incapable of elevating myself to the level of deity, I am quite skilled in devaluing others so that they received (what I thought was their just) punishment. The only way that happened was by making myself a spiritual hostage to unforgiveness. I’ve blindly witnessed (the consistency of) how this unforgiveness scenario played out in my life:
- I charged someone with an offense
- I prosecuted the offender
- I sentenced the offender
- I punished the offender
The way of forgiveness (Hostage No More):
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”2
God then, doesn’t ask me to forgive, He commands me to forgive! I am compelled to obey God if my desire is to please Him in my life because:
“…to obey is better than sacrifice…”3
I believe in order to be a spiritual hostage no more; I must choose to say the words: I forgive you, when someone offends me. I may not believe this at first, I may even want to repeat that judicial process I’ve gone through in the past and revert to being a spiritual hostage. But by speaking the words of forgiveness, I discovered the truth of forgiving:
I no longer place more value on the offense than the person who offended me.
I choose to forgive by losing (letting go and forgetting) the memory of the offense; I can no longer recall it.
How do I let go and forget?
Stop replaying the experience over and over again in my mind by forgetting it.
Speak the words of forgiveness and be a hostage no more.
If you are harboring hurts, memories and pain from others, you need to free yourself and those who hurt you. I remember a comedy skit by The Three Stooges called, Niagara Falls. In this skit, every time the phrase Niagara Falls was mentioned, the character would become enraged; beating poor Curly until he regained his composure. It’s the same for the spiritual hostage of unforgiveness. The memory of the experience is a continuous loop, replaying in our mind again and again; keeping us a spiritual hostage. People say, “I can forgive, but I will never forget”, and think that they have done everything God requires. I do not believe this to be complete because:
- I was unwilling to devalue what happened and therefore unwilling to forget.
- I was unwilling to forget what happened and therefore I refused to honestly forgive.
- I was unwilling to forgive what happened so I condemned a person to my own personal form of punishment.
God the Father looks at the cross where Jesus hung and died for my sin. This memory of His Son, is a reminder against any accusation of my redemption. The reality is that Christ saved me, washed away my sins. My sin isn’t a memory, it’s gone and forgotten! We tend to forget about things that we no longer value. I’m a creature of habit because I need to repeat the same things in order to remember it. When I come home, my keys are always put in the same place. What about my clothes, shoes, coat, gloves, important documents, wallet, tablet, or cellphone? A place for everything, and everything in its place. When I change my routine, and put something in a different place, what happens? I can’t find it!
Biblical forgetting, is no longer having a memory of something. When I eliminate a value to an offense, I will forget it happened.
As a condemned sinner, I had no hope of forgiveness without Jesus Christ. The bible says,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”4
There are particles in the air that cannot be seen without magnification. My life as a condemned sinner cannot be magnified to a visibility where it overshadows the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. At one time, I carried my sin and condemnation with me wherever I went. At Calvary, it was nailed on the cross with Jesus; swallowed up by his atonement. As the bible says,
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting…The sting of death is sin…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”5
Paul writes in Hebrews:
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”6
This scripture taken from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33-34, illustrates the beauty of the grace of God. Where grace is given, sin is forgotten. The grace we receive from God must be extended to others by us.
Do you want to forgive?
Begin by giving grace and forgetting; then say, “I forgive you”.
It’s time to be a hostage no more!
- Luke 23:34, NIV
- Matthew 6:14, NIV
- 1 Samuel 15:22, NASB
- John 3:16, NIV
- 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NIV
- Hebrews 10:16-17, NIV
|Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).|