Matthew 18 vs 25-35
There is a book called The Freedom Factor: Finding Peace by Forgiving Others… and Yourself, by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson with Mark E. Strong which I’ll be referencing in the text below which talks about the requirements for forgiveness and the consequences of unforgiveness. He wrote a devotional on the Bible App called ‘Free to Forgive’. I really encourage you all to go through it.
What is forgiveness?
God loves us immensely and wants us to receive peace. John 14:27 says “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”. Forgiveness can revolutionize your life, it is a powerful tool that can unlock the doors of every kind of heart, break the chains of every kind of hurt so that you can live a life of peace and joy. Forgiveness is freedom.
What happens when you don’t forgive?
We will have a life of suffering and torment
In Matthew 18:21, Peter asked the question that sparked Jesus’ revelation about unforgiveness: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus’ answer was: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (v. 22). Jesus was emphasizing this kind of radical forgiveness. Then, to explain further, Jesus gets into the story of the King and the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. The King didn’t torture the servant directly but he did delegate the torture (creating suffering and distress) to others. In the same way, God will deliver us to the torturers if each of us, from our heart, does not forgive our brother (another human being) his trespasses (hurts, wounds, injustices done to us). This is coming from verse 35 which says “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” If we do not forgive, we will surely experience some kind of negative result in our life, a situation that could be described as “torture” or “suffering.” And for how long? Verse 34 says “Until he should pay all that was due to him.” The implication is that as soon as we forgive, the connected torment or suffering is legally canceled.
We will live a life of vengeance
When you don’t forgive, you hold on to ill feelings toward the person for their hurtful actions. Because of the wounds you experienced by the other person, you decide that you aren’t going to forgive them, or just to ignore them. You fail to realize that your wound will eventually become infected. And even if you try to ignore it, infection remains. It spreads. It will affect your life, your relationships, your health and well-being, and even parts of your life that don’t seem connected at all to the original wound. Here are the stages of unforgiveness: Stage 1: unforgiveness. Stage 2: anger. Stage 3: bitterness. Stage 4: slander (gossip). Stage 5: resentment (disappointment). Stage 6: hatred. Stage 7: vengeance.
When unforgiveness drives you to a point of vengeance, well, may God have mercy on you. Galatians 1 vs 5 says: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Unforgiveness is a form of bondage. You are essentially trapped in your own negative thoughts about someone. Living a life that seeks to harm someone else through revenge is not the way Christ intended for us to live.
We will become hypocrites
It’s not right for us to ask for forgiveness from God, yet refuse to forgive our brothers and sisters. That’s hypocritical, and that’s exactly what this story from Matthew 18 emphasizes. We pray daily to God and expect Him to be compassionate towards us, yet we can’t show the same compassion to a friend, our family member that hurt you, that coworker who talked about you behind your back. So basically, if you want to be a hypocrite, don’t forgive.
Our heavenly father won’t forgive us
Matthew 9 vs 14-15 says “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
So we NEED to forgive.God wants and expects you and me to forgive everyone for everything every time. The number of times you forgive should be unlimited!
How do we forgive? What are the steps?
Requirement 1: Open your heart to forgive
‘So My Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.’ (Matt. 18:35). Your heart is what needs healing. You can’t think forgiveness. Forgiving from your heart requires action.
Requirement 2: Extend compassion to the person who wounded you.
Verses 26-27 says “The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” Verse 33 says ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” In order to extend them compassion, set the wound aside for a moment and see them as a person. What they did is not equal to who they are. Try and ask yourself, why would this person feel the need to hurt others? What’s going on in their lives that’s so hurtful that would drive them to do that? Try and stand in their shoes and see their point of view. When you give them compassion, you focus on them as a person, not on what they did to you.
Requirement 3: Release the person from your heart.
To do this, again, you must make a separation from the individual and the wound they gave you. The person isn’t equal to what they did to you. The wound was an act they did. To release them, you are extending compassion on the person, not on what they did to you.
Requirement 4: Forgive the person for each trespass, offense, mistake, and wound.
That has been the unseen root of so many of our problems—we say “I forgive you,” instead of “I forgive you for the wound when you did such and such (describe the wound).” We need to be honest and specific—looking at and naming each and every offense and then forgiving them one at a time, leaving nothing out.
Requirement 5: Bless and do good to the person.
‘But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.’ (Matt. 5:44–45). How will you know if you have truly forgiven? If you can look right at that person who hurt you so much, and bless them. You will know that you are free when you can wish well the one who wounded you.
How do you know whether or not you have truly forgiven someone?
- Everytime you think about the person, is the first thought about the hurt that they caused you??
- Would you help them if you knew they were in trouble, and you had the ability to help?
- Can you think positive thoughts about the person?
- Do you still think of getting even with the person?
- Do you still look for them to fall, or look for a reason to say ‘serves you right’ or ‘you deserve it!’?
If the answer is yes to any of those questions, or if you even felt a prick in your heart, I would advise you, for your own sake of internal peace, to seriously pray that God will open your heart to forgive. Pray about it so that the heart infection doesn’t spread and so that you don’t get to a point of vengeance. Diligently seek God about it so that you don’t live a life of torture and suffering. Meditate on scriptures around forgiveness and put it into action, so that God will also forgive you. Also pray positively for the person, that God will deal with the hurt in their lives that drive them to hurt others. God is a God of love and peace, and He has it in abundance and is more than willing to pour it out on you. Let’s not let unforgiveness hold us back from the life we were meant to live.