You want to move on with your life. The anger and resentment are eating you up. You’ve been told that forgiveness is the only way to find freedom. You want to find freedom, but you just can’t let it go.
The end does not justify the means with God, who judges the hearts and motives of men. For that reason, the overwhelmingly accepted encouragement and motivation for forgiveness may be leading you down a path of futility.
The Powerless Approach to Forgiveness
I am compelled to write because I have heard this unbiblical and ineffective approach one time too many. It’s become all too common and accepted. Honestly, I’m amazed that it’s been able to slip so easily into use in the body of Christ. This one we should have seen coming.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. You’re encouraged to forgive because forgiveness sets you free. As long as you are holding a grudge, the offender is free, but you are imprisoned in resentment and unforgiveness. Granting forgiveness, it’s argued, is for you, not the offender. Sound familiar?
The Nature of Forgiveness
By appealing to our vanity, this encouragement may make the desire to forgive bearable, but it doesn’t provide the God intended power to do so. In fact, because it’s a selfish act, intended for the benefit of ourselves, it destroys the very fabric and nature of forgiveness.
At it’s very essence, forgiveness is a gift of grace given to the offender, and one must have a store of grace in order to give it to others. You have to have received the gracious gift of forgiveness in order to give it to others.
The Power to Forgive
The power to forgive comes from having known the pain and guilt of having been an offender. It comes from having experienced offending the innocent and being so enslaved to your own wretchedness that you didn’t realize the need nor posses the capacity to make amends, and found pardon nonetheless. It comes from knowing deeply you didn’t deserve the amazing grace you were given. Having freely received the precious and freeing gift, then, and only then, can you freely give that gift of grace.
This is at the heart of Jesus’ story to answer Peter’s forgiveness question.
Matthew 18:21 (NAS): 21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Forgiveness is a Matter of Degree
In the story, forgiveness is a matter of degree. It’s the 10,000 talents the slave is forgiven by the King versus the 100 denarii that same slave is unwilling to forgive his fellow slave. When you are graciously forgiven more than you could possibly repay, then shouldn’t you forgive your brother who owes you what could be repaid. The answer is obvious as long as you never lose sight of how much you have been forgiven. The amount of grace you’ve been given determines how much grace you have to give.
The Real Freedom in Forgiveness
The unbiblical approach to forgiveness offers freedom when you forgive, but, as many have discovered, it’s a hollow offer.
You have to be free to forgive and real freedom comes from having been forgiven.Tweet
The Lord Jesus has given His life that you may walk in the light of forgiveness His sacrifice provides. He has set you free with enough grace to share with those in need of forgiveness. He has forgiven the debt you could not repay, and it would be wicked indeed to demand repayment from those indebted to you.