R.C. Sproul from Ligonier Ministry said it once, “He doesn’t simply tell us to pray, ‘Forgive us our debts.’ Rather, we are to ask God to forgive us ‘as we forgive our debtors.’ In my opinion, that’s one of the most frightening lines in the Lord’s Prayer. If this condition is to be taken literally, we are finished.”
The harder phrase that we see and need to live in need of forgiveness is the struggle with the 2nd portion. There are a lot of people who are struggle with unforgiveness to a former pastor, a deacon, or a friend.
One of the greatest sins in the church may be a lack of forgiveness, which stems from pride, and it stems from not preaching the gospel to ourselves.
Why did Jesus link our forgiveness of others with God’s forgiveness of us? How does confessing your sin to God help us forgive others?
Here are 6 ways to begin your process of forgiving those as followers of Christ.
1. Forgiveness Allows You to Move Forward as Human.
If you are alive you’ve been hurt by other people. That’s just the way it is. People hurt other people, sometimes intentionally but most of the time unintentionally.
Why forgives our debtors? The grace you extend is tied to the grace you receive.
We should notice that it is “debtors” that are forgiven, not “debts.” We are not saying what the person did was ok. We are simply, “releasing” them as we move on. Because of sin, people hurt each other. We can forgive what they have done and not who they are.
A person who says, “I’ll never forgive you!” is not aware of his sins! Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Waiting for someone to repent before we forgive is to surrender our future to the person who wronged us. They may never repent. Waiting for an apology that may never occur.
Therefore, take the first step by moving forward. Step out of obedience and ask God to help you to forgive.
2. Forgiveness Sets You Free as a Prisoner of the Past.
You see when you don’t forgive, you’re a prisoner to the other person. When we realize that when we don’t extend forgiveness, someone else is that holds us hostage to pain.
When we slam the door on another, we lock ourselves in. We become a prisoner in our own heart. Forgiveness is not something we do to someone else. Forgiveness is something we do to oneself.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation or restoration. Forgiveness is one way, yet reconciliation both ways. You do not need to stay with people who hurt you. Forgiveness can be gained, but trust must be earned. As I often tell people, “Trust takes years to build, a second to break, and forever to repair.”
Therefore, forgiveness does not necessarily mean you return as “best-friends” and reunite immediately as the trust has been broken. Forgiveness does not requalify a person.
When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner we set free was us.
3. Forgiveness Means Setting Free by Surrender to Jesus
Forgiveness is releasing people even though it has been so painful and lost something. “I release you” is what Jesus Christ has done for us. Jesus does not ask us to do anything that He’s not. For me to truly identify with who He is that He’s a forgiving God, this is for me to be able to step out in forgiving others.
Forgiveness happens in three stages:
(1) We rediscover the humanity of the person who wronged us.
(2) We surrender our right to get even.
(3) We wish that person well.
Forgiveness is a journey and at times it takes much longer than expected. It may take many bandages before healing has occurred.
When we raise the white flag of revenge, then bridge to relationship is restored. Forgiveness essentially is the absence of revenge.
4. Forgiveness is Not Easy, it Means Dying to Self
“Wow. This is not so easy” It is very difficult if it is something you’re trying to do. C.S. Lewis said himself in Mere Christianity, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.”
Forgiving others comes to major difficulty because it collides with the concept of understanding God’s forgiveness for us. “I cannot forgive my wife, my neighbor, or my pastor.”
Ask God to help you to forgive. “Lord help me to forgive! I will never get it right. I come to you one more time. I need your forgiveness. I cannot make what is lost. You have forgiven so much of me. I want to extend that same forgiveness to these people.”
Forgiveness continues as God lives within us. Forgiveness is small in comparison to the price of unforgiveness.
May we constantly come in seeking God’s forgiveness that is covered by the blood of Jesus. You won’t be more like Jesus like the moment we extend forgiveness to one another.
5. For Those Who Do Not Forgive, Your Heavenly Father Will Not Forgive You.
This is the only phrase that He clarified right after the prayer in vs. 14-15. It is that important!
“If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt 6:15).
It’s not that we forgive to gain God’s forgiveness; it’s that we forgive because we’ve been forgiven much. The problem is that you don’t understand the gospel. We understand the gospel with our mind, but not within our hearts.
Our unforgiveness of others closes our ability to receive God’s forgiveness. God forgives us totally and ultimately, but it blocks us from receiving forgiveness from those who harbor and become bitter in that situation and affects their relationship with God!
The devil gets this claw in our hearts, and if we don’t learn how to forgive, they are going to do something against us. Christians become a hard, bitter, unforgiving person that takes out everything on everyone around them.
6. Forgiveness is a Great Catalyst for Humility.
“Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” (Ex. 21:24). Was the old model that was given. However, Jesus comes along and shift the entire thing. “Turns the other cheek, goes the extra mile” (Matt 5:39-41). Why? Because it is counter-cultural to who we are!
Forgiveness is the power of humility. Prayer brings us humility, spiritual cleansing and into right relationship with God.
What happens in your prayer life is manifested in your Christian life.
Forgiveness is the absence of holier-than-thou spirituality. Forgiveness is the absence of assumption that you are the offended one and not the offender.