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Forgiveness—Forgive Or Forget It

 

By Keith Green

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There I was, seated in row 17, flying from Dallas to Los Angeles. I began to day-dream, thinking about a friend of mine who had once treated me (what I thought was) unfairly in a financial dealing we'd had. As I turned the whole incident over in my mind, I remembered how I had originally consoled my bruised feelings by thinking to myself, "Well, that's okay, it's God's money anyway-God'll deal with him."

But flying on that jet through the night, I started to get an uneasy feeling inside, almost like vengeance. All of a sudden, it wasn't enough to put the whole thing in God's hands. I found myself thinking, "I sure hope the Lord brings that whole thing up when so-and-so stands before Him on the day of judgment."

And then, immediately, the Lord broke into my thoughts and said to me, "I'll be glad to bring it up - as long as you don't mind Me bringing up all the stupid things you've done!"

I burst out laughing, right there in row 17. All at once I saw the sad hilarity of it all. I had never really forgiven him at all! Even with all my spiritualizing about the Judgment Seat, what I was really saying in my heart was, "He'll get his!" With one sentence, the Holy Spirit showed me gross unforgiveness in my heart - not only toward this brother, but toward many others who had hurt or offended me.

In an instant, I completely understood Jesus' words, "If you do not forgive men, then your[heavenly] Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matt. 6:15)

The Unmerciful Slave

In the 18th chapter of Matthew (vs. 23-35), there's an incredible tale about this guy who owed the king a whole lot of money. "And... there was brought to him one who owed him 10,000 talents" (worth more than ten million dollars today). "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.

"The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt."

I think the most beautiful part of this story is the fact that the king forgave him the debt... over ten million dollars worth!! The main reason he canceled it was that even though the slave promised to eventually repay it, it was obviously an impossible amount of debt to ever work off in one's lifetime. Therefore, in his compassion, showing that when the king released him from it forever... or did he? Let's read on...

It says immediately in the very next verse (vs. 28), "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denanii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' He was unwilling, however, (to forgive him) but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed."

Can you imagine the nerve? You've just been forgiven ten million dollars, and instead of going out and celebrating, you go and find some poor Joe who owes you 18 bucks! He's probably heard about your good fortune through the grapevine and thinks you're gonna invite him to the party, when all of a sudden you start strangling the daylights out of him. And when he asks you to be patient and give him a few days to repay you, you refuse and throw him in jail.

It might not sound like something you'd do, but I bet you've done it before. You see, if your sins have been forgiven by Jesus, you've had an incredible debt erased. Any bitterness or unforgiveness in your heart, after the total amnesty you've received, makes you as bad as the unmerciful slave. His unforgiveness was not only stupid, it also blew the whole deal with the king!

"When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord... Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?'

'And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him." Then Jesus adds the stinger... "So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

Jesus certainly couldn't have made Himself any clearer about how upset our Father in heaven gets when, after forgiving us for an eternal debt of sin, we hold some little five-and-dime grudge against someone else "for whom Christ died."

I think it's also important to note that the debt the king had originally called off was now on again - and in full! This has many theological implications; but, since I'm no theologian (and the implicated subjects are perhaps some of the stickiest and most heavily debated in the Church today), I will safely say, "Whoever has ears, let him hear."

"If You Have Anything Against Your Brother..."

At any rate, all this goes to warn us that if we have anything in our hearts against anyone, we should go to that person quickly and get the whole thing totally cleared up. It might be our parents, or an employer, a teacher, or even a husband or wife. But in the light of this parable, we can see that however much anyone has hurt us, it doesn't even compare to the free gift of God's pardon for our sins. We must not put that forgiveness in danger of being made void by our refusal to "go and do likewise." For the Word of God says, "If possible. ..be at peace with all men... [for] these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." (Rom. 12:18; II Cor. 5:18)
 
 

A Root Of Bitterness

Bitterness is a deadly thing - a real cancer. In Hebrews 12:15, it says, "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." According to this Scripture, bitterness cannot only hurt you, but it can spread like gangrene to others!

When you trace the life-histories of men like Adolph Hitler, for example, you find that the great evils they engaged in later in life had their roots in deep-seated hurts from early in their childhood.

The mass-murders of the Charles Manson family stemmed from Manson's bitterness toward a record producer who didn't like his music. Outraged, Manson sent his "family" to the producer's house (not knowing that he had moved) and told them to kill anyone they found there. The appalling result was that all of the victims ended up to be people who Manson had never even met, showing that when bitterness runs unchecked in our hearts, it can spill over into other people's lives, and "by it, many be defiled."

Cults can even develop when the leaders get bitter towards the main-line churches or denominations. The life stories of such men as Joseph Smith, Moses David (Children of God), John Todd, and Jim Jones all have one thing in common - their hatred for hypocrisy in the Church. But when their hatred turned to self-righteousness and intense resentment, it ruined the faith of many others - destroying whole families and even lives.

"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." (Rom. 1:21)

 

Keith Green, 2/21/2007

Feedback:
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Jennifer (Guest) 07/14/2011 19:29
I have been arrested by the Holy Spirit as a result of following the link on facebook and reading this article tonight. I am married to an unbeliever and have deep hurts from all the things that have been said and not done (or not done) but God has removed blinders from my eyes in this moment as I see my heart is full of bitterness and I have been judge, jury and jailer. I will need His grace to make the forgiveness complete but I am willing and He is able. The Word is alive and sharper than any two edged sword. Self righteousness is ugly....Forgive me Father...please give me wisdom and make the forgiveness complete.
Janet (Guest) 07/14/2011 21:10
What I am about to say sounds so trivial to what I have read above, but it is an area I have really struggled with my mother. Please don't judge me too harshly! I have held some resentment and bitterness/unforgiveness to my mother. When I visit her, I often like to share the downstairs bathroom shower with her, as it is a better shower. The upstairs shower water accumulates around my feet and is more closed in. Even when it is supposedly 'fixed', the water still accumulates. On days I wash my hair, I'd just rather be in the downstairs bathroom shower. My mom really is selfish with her time in the downstairs shower (wants to be in there the WHOLE time as she gets ready) and I get in only as a last resort or almost always to her convenience. I just want 5 minutes to get in and out and finish dressing upstairs! I have tried to work out a time to get in the shower around her schedule, but I always have to wait! So, I often just go upstairs and use the one up there, even though it is not a good one. It just is easier! I get flabbergasted and wish she would accomodate me just a bit on occasion. As I type these words, I see how foolish and easy it is to get upset over seemingly small things. Lord, forgive my bitter heart and help me to forgive my mom in spite of her actions/disregard for me and my convenience at times. It's caused strife between us. Please fill my heart with forgiveness. I'm home again, but dread sharing a hotel room with her or visiting her at her home when I have to be in a position to share a bathroom with her again! It just seems impossible to work things out with her. Lord, help ME to be accomodating and put up with less than best, if it makes peace between us.
Joan (Guest) 07/15/2011 00:24
I think one thing many people struggle with, is the fact that what others have done do you can be really bad things, and that, if we forgive them, it somehow means that the thing they have done is not so bad or even ok. (If you understand what I mean..) But that's not true! Forgiving doesn't mean saying to people that it is ok to do what they have done. It means that we will not hold it against them, because we have to forgive like God has forgiven us..! It is true, yes, that God will deal with them, but that is not to make US fell better. I think forgiving is one of the strongest power in the world, it is a fruit of true love! My husband of 15 years ran away with the babysitter... I was very bitter. But when I forgave them, I released myself from the bitterness, and only then I was ready to move on. Of course it is not easy... sometimes bitter thoughts come sneaking into my mind... but I pray to God to take them away.

Thank you Melody, that you shared these words of God and Keith with us today, I am sure it was meant for me!
lin (Guest) 07/15/2011 10:01
Thanks for posting this Melody. I've begun to take inventory of whom i may be holding a grudge against but Keith mentioned a possible implication of my sins not being forgiven if I haven't truly forgiven others and i'm wondering now. What 'popped' into my mind is the Lord's prayer...'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others' so my prayer will be that as I choose to forgive my brother/sister in Christ, my Father will will forgive me too. He is merciful and right now I'm grateful i took the time to read your husband's insight. Blessings to you and yours.
Lin Baker (Guest) 07/25/2011 15:09
I have just started to forgive those who have hurt me. I had been "saved" for 40 years but it seems like those years are more like the wasted years in the wilderness like the Hebrews. I don't even know now if I was truly saved in 1971. No matter, as it is how we finish not how we start and we can see this in the lives of many of the characters God put in the Bible. Look at all of the Disciples. Look at Paul the Apostle. Look at Peter the Little Stone. They were really odd characters before Jesus called them. They needed to forgive first before they could go out into the world to reach others. Like me.

Forgiveness is such a marvelous release of stress and pain. I am so glad that I now know what it means to forgive those how I considered unforgivable and in doing that I was unforgivable. If I had kept up that attitude, I would never have seen Jesus at all, ever! My husband was often the target of my non-forgiveness. When I forgave him truly from my heart, we fell in love all over again. AND WOW! Can that have an impact on all around us. There is nothing worse than a wife who dislikes her husband. It is a cancer that eats at all around you. Oh thank you Jesus! Forgive all! You won't be sorry you did.......PTL!
lisa (Guest) 10/02/2011 05:24
I prayed for it for 7yrs and just could not do it genuinely. I was so hurt by those who I gave my heart to. But, then I was broke down... and then that's when I was able to see what I could not see and forgive where I once could not. Now, I can say "father forgive them for they know not what they do" and move on with my life and still love.

Don Braugh 10/19/2011 13:26
@ Lisa, this is very good. The Lord is near to those who are brokenhearted. I remember hearing once that there are two things the Lord never meant for humans to carry around as emotional baggage: 1) Divorce (for it is a root work meaning to betray/ 'where we get the English word "Treason". (sermon by Myles Monroe), and the 2) A broken heart. This is why Jesus when fulfilling the Isaiah passage is first called and anointed to "heal the brokenhearted." I also know that, "A bruised reed He shall not break, a smoldering flax He will not snuff out." To me this means He isn't to be feared for He knows how to afflict our hearts until repentance. He knows how much we need to wake up and how much we DON'T need wounding. Let Him be the restorer of all new things. Chin up!
sharon ndhlovu (Guest) 02/20/2012 22:12
had some conflicts to deal with an employee who said bad things about me to other workmates and wondered how best to deal with it,yesternite i asked the lord to help me handle this in a right way and i believe my answer has just come through. thnk you GOD bless you.
Cassie (Guest) 03/13/2012 00:02
Yep God is telling me I need to forgive churches, my ex-husband, my family, frenemies, my ex father in law....maybe myself.
Anna (Guest) 05/08/2013 15:02
I have known I had to forgive my brother,he stole 20,000 dollars from me and my mother who I suffered alot of abuse from even though she died i still didn't truly forgive her and I knew God forgave her she was a christian.So I knew God forgave her.....why couldn't I.I couldn't forgive and honor my Mother and Father.I have been really searching my heart lately and getting alone with God and when you do that you can find alot of sin that has gone unchecked,at least I have,so much sin from years of How could they?How dare they?I was the victim.......miss innocent....well not in God's eyes and now not in my own....I tired.......I'm so tired ......I want the joy of God's salvation and I tread it under foot for what! What did I get for it all........nothing! just pain utter pain,self hatred........I have alot of work to do .
I thank God he led me here today.......I know He has to chastise me for my sin,ut even in His chastisement He is merciful father.I have no strength,when I try to walk I feel like I have been carrying a thousand pounds on my shoulders..that's what I got from all my unforgiveness and sin.Iwhen I was living right in God oh so many years ago I felt that weight lifted ,when I walked it was like I was walking on a cloud.......I gave all that up to harbor sin........To love the world did they love me does anyone love me or should I say Have I loved anyone NOOOO.I am like someone on the threshold I know God is love.....I want his face to shine on me once again.I have to repent and I have been this is one of the things that MUST be done in my life or I'll never get this weight off of me.I'm willing right now I'm so willing.I want God so much I miss him sooooooooo much,I pray he forgives me as I learn to forive others ,I just want to WAKE UP stop playing games and do what I'm told,I've spent so much time ,unfruitful wasted time on things that are not eternal.God have mercy on my soul.
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