“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” ~Colossians 3:13
Right before Jesus taught the disciples how to pray in Matthew 6, He said something that we should not overlook. He says this in verse 8: …”for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Because God already knows our needs before we ask, Jesus taught the disciples to pray about very specific things. One of those very specific things was forgiveness. In Matthew 6:14, Jesus prays, “and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Of all the things Jesus (who is all knowing) could have mentioned in this prayer example, He chose forgiveness. You ever wonder why? Why is forgiveness so important that Jesus intentionally included it in a prayer He knew would be repeated in all the earth until the end of time?
In Matthew 6:10, Jesus invites the manifestation of God’s will and God’s kingdom upon the earth, which is the basis of this devotional. However, it is impossible to experience the gifts of the kingdom of heaven on earth, if our hearts are poisoned with unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is lethal to our being able to experience the fulfilling life Christ desires for us to experience on this earth before we die. It’s so lethal to us, Jesus followed up the prayer with this warning in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Jesus also teaches the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:23-35. Then in Matthew 18:32, Peter asks Jesus how many times must we forgive someone, thinking that seven times was reasonable. Jesus’ response? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” What’s the takeaway here? Unforgiveness is serious, serious business. It stands between us and our access to the riches and glory of God’s kingdom on the earth and so much more.
I completely understand how difficult it is to forgive someone who has hurt you deeply; especially when the offense was intentional and full of malice. We feel justified in holding on to our deep resentment, which festers into lasting bitterness. But here’s the thing. God knows the enemy uses our unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment against us as an opportunity to destroy us and other people as well. “..and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27) This is the scheme of the devil, and many of us fall prey to it, thinking forgiveness lets the other person off the hook. Forgiveness does release someone, but that someone is us, not the other person.
Jesus came to reestablish God’s kingdom on the earth, and He did it without unforgiveness in His heart. Even at the cross, Jesus prayed that God would forgive His enemies. This is the kind of heart God seeks to establish within all of our souls. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) The willingness to forgive is essential to our journey of spiritual transformation into the image of Christ. Although challenging, God doesn’t expect us to do this on our own. Through relationship with God, prayer and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, we can be free from the spirit of offense. Because God makes it clear, when we hold unforgiveness in our hearts, the only person we hold prisoner is ourselves.
Prayer: Father, you are holy and magnificent. Thank you for teaching me how unforgiveness affects my relationship with you. Help me to remember that forgiving someone of an offense frees me. Forgiveness releases me to receive your forgiveness, your blessings and your perfect peace. I understand that a forgiving heart is key to living a fulfilling, abundant life on earth. By the power of the Holy Spirit, help me to release any offense I have in my heart against anyone right now. As I release them, I release myself. In Jesus’ beautiful name I pray. Amen.