Forgive Freely

Read: Matthew 18:21-35.
What was wrong with this man? The same thing that is wrong with many professing Christians: They have received forgiveness, but they have not really experienced forgiveness deep in their hearts. Therefore, they are unable to share forgiveness with those who have wronged them. In other words, it is not enough to receive God’s forgiveness, or even the forgiveness of others. We must experience that forgiveness in our hearts so that it humbles us and makes us gentle and forgiving toward others. We are in very spiritually dangerous territory when we choose not to forgive others in the same manner as God has forgiven us.
See Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Colossians 3:13. The quality and quantity of the forgiveness that God freely gave us determines the quality and quantity of forgiveness that I should freely give to others.

Resolution #4: This year, I will forgive freely and not allow unforgiveness to poison and imprison my heart.

  So how to I resolve to forgive freely? What does it look like to forgive this way?

To forgive freely involves canceling a debt.

When you forgive someone, you also cancel a debt. But, more specifically, you make a conscious choice to absorb the cost yourself. You choose not to make the offender pay for the offense. By forfeiting your right to collect, you make at least three promises.

  1. You promise that you will not bring up the debt to use it as leverage.
  2. You promise that you will not bring up the offense to others and slander the person who sinned against you.
  3. You promise not to dwell on the offense yourself.

To forgive freely is costly, but withholding forgiveness is more costly.

No matter how you spin it, forgiveness is costly. But the parable shows us that not forgiving also has a price, and it is higher than the price forgiveness demands. In addition, holding onto an offense will make you a bitter and unloving person, and you will inevitably damage all your relationships. No matter which way you choose, you will pay a price. Which price are you willing to pay?

To forgive freely is an event and a process.

We’re tempted to think that once we have forgiven someone, we’re done. But forgiving someone is not just a past event. Even if you have forgiven someone for something they have done in the past, you need to be careful that you don’t slip into bitterness some time in the future. You need to keep practicing forgiveness every time you see them or think of them.

To forgive freely is not the same as forgetting.

Too often people say that the evidence of having truly forgiven someone is to forget what he has done to you. But our minds don’t function this way, and our ability to remember is powerful. Trying to forget a sin someone has committed against you will only encourage you to remember it.

To forgive freely means dealing with the sin in a redemptive way.

Does it seem as if forgiveness means you should just let people sin against you? The Bible never says, “Make it easy for others to sin against you.” Instead, it provides a way to deal with sin in redemptive ways.