Have you ever stopped to think how life can be unfair at times? I have a friend who has gone through so many disasters I know for sure he is probably thinking that at this time. Life is not fair. If you are reading this devotional then you probably have been hurt by someone whether it was intentional or not. Our perception of reality is what we go with. Unfortunately, you hear phrases like this, “Hurt me once shame on you, hurt me twice shame on me.” “I’ll never trust you again.” I have seen people hurt others because they have been hurt and thus the phrase, “hurt people, hurt people.” Now teenagers are not able to hide this attitude as well as adults. They have only been around the block once or twice. As an adult, we have learned to play the game of life a little better than immature teenagers. Can I tell you what the Bible calls the attitude of the heart when you move on without healing? It’s called unforgiveness, or should I say, “sin.” It is serious enough that it mentions it can get in the way of your entrance to heaven. The Bible has much to say about this subject.
I have seen many build walls in life that only hinder growth and relationship with others. Jesus talks about true forgiveness in a Parable of the Unmerciful Servant found in Matthew 18:21-35. It is brought on by Peter asking Jesus how many times you are to forgive someone who sins against you. Peter was thinking in the realm of about seven times. That is a lot when you stop and think about it. When is the last time you forgave someone up to seven times? That would have to be in the sphere of a family member to be that many times. But Jesus' response was, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus knew that when we have an unforgiving spirit, we are, in a sense, building our own prison cell. Just ask anyone who has not forgiven someone how that is working for them. It has a way of wedging itself in other areas of our lives and making you miserable all the time. I can attest to that myself on many occasions in the past. But forgiveness sets us free from our own self-made prison cells.
In the parable, we learn the king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. There was one particular servant who owed him a lot of money. The king decided to sell all the servant had including his wife and children. The servant begged the king to be patient with him and he would pay back everything in time. The king had mercy on him and canceled all their debt and let them go. This is a picture of God in the story. He has canceled our debt we could not pay and exercised unlimited forgiveness. What a God we serve! God has given us His mercy so we can go out and extend it to others.
The story goes on to show how that same servant who was forgiven all his debts went out and grabbed someone who owed him money, and began to choke him and demand the money now. His fellow servant did the same thing he did previously by falling to his knees and asking for patience and in due time he would pay it back. But the servant refused to listen and threw the man into prison until he could pay him back.
This way of living backfired on the servant who had been forgiven everything. The king caught wind of what had taken place and tortured the servant he had forgiven everything to until he could repay what was owed. This just shows that God will turn us over to our own “prison” of bitterness if we are unwilling to forgive others. God calls each of us to be responsible in every conflict to put things right by receiving or giving forgiveness.
Read the parable for yourself found in Matthew 18:21-35. Let God speak to you and help you evaluate any unforgiveness that may have lodged itself up in your heart. This week, memorize the following verses,
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
So instead of building walls around you to protect you from others, begin to take those walls down one brick at a time. Be generous with forgiveness, it’s worth the freedom in living as Christ calls us to.
This Sunday I will be preaching from John 8:12 where Jesus says, “I AM the light of the world…” Until then, let forgiveness be a buffet before us and may we find joy in forgiving others even before we need to.
Joy in Jesus!