For more than two weeks the daily devotional calendar on my desk has focused on forgiveness. Although I’ve read each devotional many times before, this time I was compelled to think about who I need to forgive. To be honest I had duped myself into believing I was doing pretty good in the area of forgiveness. It’s amazing how God’s Word exposes what’s in your heart. Have you thought about who you’ve been unable or unwilling to forgive?
The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:26 that we’re created in God’s image, after His likeness. God forgives and as His image bearers we are commanded to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’ sake hath forgiven you.” Carrying around unforgiveness in your heart is like having a noose around your neck that’s tied to a sack full of rocks. It chokes the life out of you. It’s a burden you were never meant to carry. Unforgiveness limits what God wants to do in your life.
The chains of unforgiveness are extensive. Unforgiveness keeps you emotionally tied to the offender. It exacts a toll on your physical and spiritual well-being. Unforgiveness will keep your prayers from getting through to God. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” It hampers the free flow of the Holy Spirit in your life. It prevents you from growing beyond the experience. Unforgiveness is like putting your car in park and pressing down on the gas pedal. Your progress is hindered. And the list of chains goes on…
Many people don’t or won’t forgive because they hold fast to myths about forgiveness. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a myth is an unfounded or false notion. The first notion we must dispel about forgiveness is that to forgive means the offender isn’t guilty. Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Forgiveness doesn’t mean the offender isn’t guilty. On the contrary. It means you acknowledge the offender’s guilt and make a decision to forgive them despite their guilt. Just as God did for us. When you forgive someone who has offended you, you don’t do it for them. You do it for yourself so that you can move in all that God has for you.
It’ a myth that we must forgive and forget. God commands us to forgive (Matthew 6:14-15). However, the Bible doesn’t say we must forget the offense. Somehow Micah 7:19 is often interpreted as God casting our sins into the sea of forgetfulness. The scripture says, “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” There’s no mention that God forgets our sins. If God were to forget anything, He wouldn’t be God. God is omniscient which means He’s all-knowing. It’s not that God forgets our sins. Rather, He chooses not to bring them up again. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget the offense. It means when you forgive, you don’t keep bringing it up. The offense begins to play less and less significance in your life.
The myth that God requires us to reconcile with the wrongdoer couldn’t be further from the truth. Reconciliation isn’t a requirement. God forgives but He doesn’t reconcile with everyone He’s forgiven. Let me explain. Unforgiveness is a sin. God in His holiness and righteousness is incapable of sin. Because unforgiveness is a sin, God would be committing a sin if He were unforgiving of anyone. Therefore, God has forgiven the people in hell. While they’ve been forgiven, they can never be reconciled to God because they’re in hell for all eternity. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to be friends with them. Romans 12:18 says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” We’re to be cordial, not necessarily friends.
As a forgiven people, we have a duty to forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). No transgression is beyond forgiveness. Regardless of the offender’s refusal to apologize first or repent, nothing releases you from God’s command to forgive.
I used to wonder why I would still feel some kind of way about people I had forgiven until I learned forgiveness is both an event and a process. There are two types of forgiveness. First, there’s decisional forgiveness. This is the initial step toward forgiving a person. Forgiveness isn’t based on how you feel. It’s a conscious decision you make to forgive someone.
Then there’s emotional forgiveness. Emotional forgiveness is a process that takes time. You know you’re being healed of unforgiveness when instead feeling hatred, anger and bitterness, you pray for the wrongdoer. You don’t react the same way when they press your buttons. You don’t keep reliving the event. Your mind isn’t flooded with thoughts of retaliation. God desires for you to be a forgiving person. Emotional forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. Through the process God cultivates a forgiving spirit in you because rest assured, you will be offended again, many times by the same people such as family, friends, coworkers, etc.
You’re anointed for so much more than you can imagine. I’ve come to realize that if I truly want all that God has for me, forgiving others must be part of the equation. God has too much in store for you to remain bound by the chains of unforgiveness. Ask God to begin to reveal to you who you need to forgive.
Stay tuned next week for Anointed For More: Breaking the Chains of Unforgiveness Part 2 as we discuss the rewards of forgiveness and much more!
Until next time…Be blessed!
Rev. Cynthia Jackson