I’ve heard it said, that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. It’s true. I know when I’ve held onto unforgiveness, not only with my mom, but many others, I only become bitter, deeply offended, and a little piece of my heart hardens that refuses to let God all the way in. I felt The Holy Spirit say to me once as if I was stepping up to claim my reservation at a restaurant for dinner “Judgement seat, party of one… And your name isn’t on the reservation.” There is only one person that can sit on the judgement seat and it’s the one who purchased every single one of our lives with his… Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
It’s good to live with a healthy awareness of who is the judge and jury, and that it’s not us. We all fall short in this area. We judge ourselves, we are quick to judge others without even thinking… Every single one of us have unintentionally or very intentionally found ourselves in the judgement seat of Christ uncomfortably having Him come up to us asking if He can have His seat back. This whole chapter is about letting Jesus have his place in the plan of redemption and reconciliation, trusting that our God truly is a God of justice even if we don’t see it with our own eyes in the land of the living.
Matthew 7:1-5 MSG
7 1-5 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
A critical spirit is simply a judgmental spirit rooted in pride. Satan thought himself better than or equal to God and that got him thrown out of the presence of God forever. I don’t know about you, but I want the presence of God in my life and it would seem that pride and un-forgiveness are not magnets for it. Seriously though, who of us is perfect? There is not one of us! Yet, we all get into our holier than thou moments and jump back on that judgement seat of Christ. Get off of it, get on your knees, and ask for forgiveness for yourself.
It seems like most of the time, we want to forgive when we feel like it. But who ever feels like forgiving someone? It’s way more than a feeling, it’s a command and an intentional lifestyle choice.
Matthew 6:12 NIV says “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
The Lord's Prayer teaches us quite simply how to pray, and forgiving those that owe us a debt they cannot pay is meant to be a part of our daily prayer lives. Yet often, it’s like we’re waiting for the perfect moment to feel something… To feel the forgiveness seeping through our veins. To have a conversation with ‘said person’ before we will forgive them. We’re hoping that we’ll never think of ‘them’ again as we release them to the judgement seat of Christ, but really, most of the time the people that we need to forgive are a part of our everyday lives. When we do see them, the litmus test is there to let us know if it really worked or not; do I still have that pang of anxiety in my stomach when I see them in a crowd? Does adrenaline shoot through my body? Do I still feel like grabbing a gun to shoot them or just simply wrestling them to the ground and pounding them with my fists with all the fury I have? Oh, wait… or is that just me?
Forgiveness is simply a free will choice, that we consciously engage, and when we do it brings freedom without borders. It is an essential key to freedom that we cannot ignore. We have the power to be released from the prison that we find ourselves in. Often times we’re screaming at the top of our lungs for someone to release us from our bondage, as Holy Spirit softly whispers to us… “You hold the key in your hands to let yourself out, and that key is forgiveness.”
Countless times I have forgiven people, including myself and will continue to do so until the day I die.
In Matthew 18:21-22 it says,
“21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”
I love that Peter is trying to get an exact number of times that he has to forgive, which is law based forgiveness. It’s not surprising that he asked this question because we have to remember that at this time, they were still under the law. Jesus hadn’t yet died and rose again yet everything He taught, said and did pointed to the New Covenant to come. So a question like this probably wasn’t out of the ordinary. Yet if we live like this, wondering what the ‘forgiveness quota’ is, then all we’re doing is checking all the boxes till we’ve done our good deeds for the day and placing ourselves under the law. Jesus gives an answer that seems impossible; “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times”. Well there goes Peter’s plans of being a “good boy” and it seems ours too. This type of forgiveness isn’t possible without the grace of God. We have been forgiven SO much that I could just weep at the thought, and daily we are forgiven because of what Jesus did on the cross. Therefore, we are to go and do the same.
There are moments where I feel like life seems to be a series of opportunities to forgive. Either that, or a series of opportunities to become bitter. You choose.
Forgiveness is a choice:
The truth is it’s not just my mom I’ve had to forgive, hello! Forgiveness is a daily choice, sometimes moment by moment choice depending on your season.
I once had a vision of myself standing alone in front of a line up of people with a blindfold on. All of a sudden God ripped my blindfold off and there I was, machine gun in hand ready to take out every person in front of me. My anger, vengeance and need for justice had overtaken me. Once again without even thinking I sat down in the judgment seat thinking I was better at this than Jesus was. The truth is, He is the only one that has the authority to judge all of humanity (2 Corinthians 5:10). When I put myself in His seat I am on dangerous ground.
Lets take a moment and read the parable of the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18:21-35. This is literally the moment after Jesus has just told Peter to forgive seventy times seven times. I love that Jesus gives an illustration to his followers so they would understand the implications if we don’t forgive, and how much it’s a necessity to engage if we’re to live in the freedom he provides for each of us to step into with our free will.
Matthew 18:21-35 NIV
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Remember how I said earlier: “Judgement seat, party of one”?!?! The unmerciful servant did get the memo, but he chose to sit in the seat that wasn’t his anyway.
As you read these words, you may feel as though you are in a spiritual prison, tormented and tortured. Can I ask urge you to ask yourself a question and answer as honestly as possible?
Who do you need to forgive to release yourself the the prison of torture you’ve been living in?
You will be amazed at the freedom you personally find as you continually forgive those that have hurt you.
Just like the unmerciful servant, so often we beg for the forgiveness of our own sin and shame, and it’s freely given to us because of all that Jesus has done on the cross. But when we are asked to engage that same level of forgiveness to others, we go out and “spiritually” choke hold anyone and everyone that owes us a debt they absolutely cannot pay. I mean we want them to apologize right?!? to write us a letter, demeaning themselves, making sure they wallow just enough to make us feel better. Heck, we’d even take a VERY public apology on CNN if it meant we were vindicated and they were defamed. Insert your own twisted version of how you’d like to make someone pay here. Fortunatly, that’s now how the Kingdom of heaven works.
I don’t know who you need to forgive but it’s necessary for your freedom. You don’t have to, but you will be forgiven as you forgive others… So it’s probably a good idea to forgive even if you don’t feel like it. Remember verse 35; “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Ouch. Now that’s some truth with a big love stick that we all need to be hit with from time to time.
Remember, you may not even feel anything when you open your mouth and forgive others, but it is absolutely a heavenly transaction that releases you from the prison you’ve been living in. And get good at forgiving because life will constantly present itself it with opportunities to forgive, and sometimes the same person repeatedly. Forgiveness transforms you into who you were called to be. Forgiveness sets you free.
Trust the Kingdom process:
Your past pain is not who you are.
We’ve got to get good at separating our past pain from our identity. Our true identity is only found in Christ and the moment we give our lives to Him and turn from our own way, we are NEW CREATION (2 Corinthians 5:17)! PERIOD. Everything is made new. Most of the time we just have to tell our soul to line up with the reality of where our Spirit is.
So much shame and abandonment comes from abuse and betrayal. If the enemy can get you to buy into a lie and live under the big wet blanket shame and abandonment, he can slowly but surely abort your destiny and keep you off track even if just slightly. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the sometimes it takes some time to unravel and then rewire our lives when tragedy, abuse, betrayal and such things happen to us. But, despite all of it, I’m here to tell you there is FREEDOM for you! Whether it comes at lightning speed or roles in like a deep roaring thunder, it’s 100% there for the taking.
So what do we do when our past has shaped who we are today? Because our upbringing, surroundings and experiences do shape us whether we like it or not. But there comes a point in our walk with God where we have to mature and engage our free will to forgive and submit to the Kingdom process. It’s the antithesis of the worldly process which usually involves revenge, judgement, hatred and bitterness.
I love the story of “The David”, undoubtedly one of the most famous statues on earth today created by the artistic genius Michelangelo now residing in the Accademia Gallery in Florence Italy. The story of it’s creation is a beautiful illustration of submitting to the artistic genius of our Father God… Who engages The Kingdom process when we are in His hands.
In the year 1410, there was a commission by the Florence Cathedral by the members of the woolen cloth guild, Arte della Lana to make a series of 12 large Old Testament sculptures for the buttresses of the cathedral. Donatello made the first figure, Joshua and had a figure of Hercules (who is not in the old Testament… but anyway) out of terra-cotta. An artist by the name of Agostino was commissioned to make the David and only got as far as shaping the legs, feet and torso. The project then ceased for reasons that are still not known.
Ten years later Antonio Rossellino was commissioned to take up where Agostiono had left off, yet soon after Rossellino’s contract was terminated for, you guessed it, unknown reasons. From that point on the marble remained NEGLECTED for twenty five years!!! It was left in the yard of the cathedral workshop, abandoned and exposed to the elements to be battered by whatever change in the weather came it’s way.
I’m going to pause for a second from the story here, because some of you feel as though you have been neglected in the process of becoming who you were always created to be by Father God. Maybe you gave your life to Jesus, the work began, but ‘life’ came your way as it does, pain set in because you gave it a place to flourish, and you feel as though you’ve been neglected and have been left to be battered by the elements. Maybe you even purposefully separated yourself from God because you’ve believed a lie that His process doesn’t work, so you willing placed yourself in the “workshop yard” being battered by whatever comes your way. Well, the story’s not over yet.
There began to be concern around this costly piece of marble that had been neglected in the cathedrals workshop yard. It represented a large amount of labor and difficulty to be transported to it’s rightful place once chiseled to perfection. 36 years after the work began on this piece of marble, and inventory was taken of the cathedral workshops courtyard, it was said of this piece of marble:
“A certain figure of marble called David is badly blocked out and supine”
Do you hear that… 36 years of abandonment! It was laying on its back, rejected, chipped away at, but unfinished. It was thrown aside but with a great destiny.
Those who found it were determined to find a great artist, the right artist, who could take this rejected piece of costly marble and shape it into a work of art to be admired for generations. They ordered the block of marble called “The Giant” to be raised on it’s feet so that a master experienced in this kind of work might examine it and express an opinion of what could be done with it. In steps Michelangelo, a 26 year old master craftsman who convinced the council to give him the commission. He took that piece of rejected, supine, worn and tattered marble and turned it into a masterpiece.
And might I say, in the right artists hands, our God - The Master Artist can take the most broken down, bitter, shameful, life and turn it into a work of art that can only bring Glory to His name. When you look at or hear of the David, to this day, there is an automatic name association with Michelangelo. His genius is glorified in his works of art. When people look at the masterpiece that is our lives, may The Creators name pop into their heads when they look at us, as they see Him take what was ‘impossible’ to shape and mold into something beautiful, defy the odds and become all He created us to be.
Michelangelo was quoted as saying:
“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
He also said:
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
When you forgive, you allow The Artist to begin to chisel away the pain in your life… In the hands of the THE artist, you are shaped, and sculpted into everything you were meant to be, and placed back in society right where you belong… You were made to be a masterpiece! Your deliverance and freedom are found in the chipping away process.
Philippians 1:6 NIV
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
To let the work continue to it’s place of completion, we have to trust the Kingdom process above our own. And forgiveness is a part of that process.
Making it Practical:
So now what? By this point, you’ve possibly pinpointed several people you need to forgive, so how? You don’t need to wait to go to church go up on a ‘forgiveness alter call’ to do so. You can pray this below prayer over and over again until you breathe your last breath and release freedom in your life continuously. Put in in your phone, on your computer, print it out and keep it in your wallet, memorize it… whatever it takes, but use it!
LORD, TODAY AS AN ACT OF MY WILL I CHOOSE TO FORGIVE _____________________ FOR HURTING ME. SPECIFICALLY I FORGIVE THEM FOR _____________________.
I CHOOSE TO RELEASE THEM FROM THEIR SIN AGAINST ME AND I CANCEL THE DEBT THEY OWE ME AND I RELEASE THEM INTO YOUR HANDS. I RELEASE THEM FROM ANY JUDGEMENT OR CRITICISM THAT I HAVE HELD AGAINST THEM AND I TRUST YOU TO DEAL WITH THE SITUATION AND MEMORY AS YOU SEE FIT. I UNDERSTAND THAT THEY HAVE ISSUES, AND THEY ARE NOT MINE TO CARRY OR FIX.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS AND BY THE POWER OF HIS BLOOD I ASK THAT HE SEAL THIS HEAVENLY TRANSACTION. AND BY THE POWER OF JESUS BLOOD I CANCEL SATAN’S AUTHORITY OVER ME IN THIS SITUATION AND IN THIS MEMORY.
GOD I ASK THAT YOU FORGIVE ME FOR SITTING IN THE JUDGMENT SEAT AND USURPING YOUR PLACE OF AUTHORITY IN TRYING TO EXECUTE JUSTICE. I THANK YOU THAT YOU FORGIVE ME LIBERALLY AND COMPLETELY, AND I CHOOSE TO EXERCISE THE SAME FORGIVENESS TO THOSE THAT OWE ME A DEBT THEY CANNOT PAY.
(The above prayer is adapted from the Bethel Sozo forgiveness prayer)
Keep this prayer on you and in your heart, because you’ll need it for the rest of your life. Don’t wait till you feel like forgiving or your never will. It’s an act of your will and It’s a heavenly transaction whether you feel it or not.
Follow Jesus Example:
Sometimes we act as though Jesus is out of touch with our emotions when it comes to pain and forgiveness. We treat him as a bible “character’ when He was and is our real, living, breathing savior who felt pain to the deepest part of his soul.
Jesus had to process pain just like we do.
Sweat poured out, dripping like blood pouring down on the harsh and unforgiving ground in the garden of Gethsemane right before he gave his life to rescue us all. He was afraid and asked His Father if there could be another way… Yet he laid down his will and went to the cross anyway.
He was betrayed unto death by Judas, one of his the men he consciously chose to invest all he had into. He could have called down legions of angels to have vengeance against this ‘friend’ and disciple… Yet he went to the cross anyway.
In Jesus darkest hour of need, Peter one of his closest friends ran away in fear. Peter had professed very publicly that he would never leave Jesus, yet when it was all on the line, he abandoned Jesus just as publicly. What did Jesus do in the midst of the betrayal? He went to the cross anyway.
He was falsely accused and humiliated in front of the multitudes. He was mocked, abused, and made a spectacle of. He didn’t answer back in anger, shame or pride…. He went to the cross anyway, even for all of his abusers.
When Jesus was upon the cross suffering, he didn’t quit nor question the mission. He submitted himself to the heavenly plan… And he stayed on the cross and gave up His life - for you, for me, for all.
What do you do when you’re betrayed by those you invest into or trust? What do you do when your closest friend abandons you in your time of greatest need because they don’t know what to do with you? What do you do when someone you trust abuses you and breaks your trust? What do you do when the church you’ve been attending is imperfect (as they all are) but causes you pain and to question the love of God and taints who Jesus truly is to you? What do you do when the family that was supposed to cover and protect you abandons you? What do you do when you’re afraid to let go and forgive because it may all spiral out of control?
I urge you to follow Jesus example and go to the cross anyway.
Even if you don’t want to, even if you don’t feel like it, even if you’re justified in your pain and anger. Go ahead and ask the Father as Jesus did if there is another way - He can take it. I’m here to tell you from experience and years of pain and questioning… The cross is the only way. Go there daily. Go there every moment of your life. The power in the cross is the power that sets us free. Go there and forgive those who have trespassed against you, just as you have trespassed against The Father who sent His One and Only Son to that cross to release you from the torment you have been living in.
Go to the cross. The choice is yours. Freedom is beckoning you.
WALKING IN FREEDOM:
- Write a list of people you need to forgive that have popped up into your heart as you have read this chapter.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to soften your heart as you prepare to release yourself from the prison of unforgiveness.
- Use the forgiveness prayer provided above, and pray through each one, ideally with someone that you trust and love to walk through this with you.
- Take a moment and as if you need to forgive yourself. Sometimes this can be the most freeing as we forget how often we easily condemn ourselves because we feel we deserve it.
- Repeat as necessary