Healing Line

Healing Line

Forgiveness is Freedom

by Judith MacNutt
2018 Vol. 05

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. — Matt. 6:12

There are two areas of forgiveness that are crucial — forgiving yourself and forgiving others.

In Scripture, Jesus taught as much about forgiveness as about love. A person who forgives and shows mercy can make great progress in his or her spiritual journey.

Did you know that transformation is optional? When God’s Holy Spirit asks for access to your life, you can say, “No, no, no!” It’s your choice. Even if you are not transformed, your wounds will not keep you from going to heaven.

Why not experience heaven here on earth? Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” He said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:14–15). Jesus is essentially saying, “The Kingdom of God is all around you, if you only have eyes to see.” When you move into the life of the Kingdom, you see people through different eyes — eyes of mercy and not resentment.

Forgiveness is a gift of grace; it comes from Jesus. When Jesus hung on the cross, beaten, naked, bleeding and in pain, He spoke these words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24). I believe at that moment, a new grace for forgiveness entered the world that had not existed before the cross. The sacrificial system of the blood of bulls, rams and doves was replaced. God Himself, through Jesus Christ, shed His blood for you. That grace of the cross permeates everything in the universe.

Because of the finished work on the cross, if you turn your heart to mercy at any given moment and ask God for grace to forgive someone, it is instantly there. When you forgive someone, you perform a silent miracle that only God sees. Forgiveness is giving grace and love to one another. Forgiveness tears down walls; it changes not only your life, but the life of the person that
you forgive.

When we refuse to forgive someone, a wound grows within us until it fills all we are. Unforgiveness is destructive — it creates bitterness and resentment. Resentment means “to experience again” — we relive an experience over and over in our mind. Resentment causes us to cling to the past, so that as a result, we are not free; we live in a prison of our own making.

Forgiveness is freedom. The word forgiveness comes from the Greek word aphiemi, which means to release, to hurl away from you, or to let go.

After someone hurts you, how many of you have said excitedly, “Thank you for talking about me behind my back! Thank you for stealing my boyfriend! Thank you for rejecting me! Now I get the chance to forgive you!”?

You will hardly ever feel like forgiving. Rather, our fallen nature wants revenge — we want to punish those who hurt us and give them what we think they deserve.

Forgiveness is unnatural. It never feels right, and our sense of fairness doesn’t approve of it. When my children were small and were fighting with each other, I learned to punish both of them. “I don’t know who did it, so you both get the same consequence.”

One child would say, “But that’s not fair!”

I said, “I understand that. You have a mother who’s not fair.”

Forgiveness is difficult. We need enough emotional honesty to ask for help: Lord, this hurts. Lord, I need help.

The timing has to be right. Sometimes we are still in a place of anger and we want to see justice done. Perhaps someone comes for prayer and they confide in you their story of horrific sexual abuse. That is not the time to say, “You must forgive them.” We must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and how He is working in someone’s life. At the right moment, grace will be given for forgiveness, but it might not be today.

When you forgive yourself, do not generalize. How can you feel forgiven if you say, “Father, forgive me for being a terrible person.”? Pray through the specific situation: “Forgive me for the unkind words I said to my sister,” or “Forgive me for yelling in anger at my children.”

Forgiveness takes courage. It takes boldness to release people who have sinned against us, and this courage comes from Jesus.

Were there a number of people involved in the hurtful situation? I find it helpful to forgive each of them one by one.

Were there consequences of the sinful action? Was there a great tragedy? Was a life taken? Was somebody physically injured? Did someone lose their job? Was a reputation ruined?

Has responsibility been placed on the right person? When a person, either man or woman, suffers sexual abuse, sometimes they say, “It must have been my fault.” I ask them, “How old were you?” “Four.” I want to say this very clearly: sexual abuse is never a child’s fault. Never.

There are emotions that need to be expressed. We are human, so when there is sin, there may be anger, tears of grief, or even regret may result over your sin. Sorrow can lead us to repentance.

After forgiveness prayers, healing follows. God comes and fills the empty spaces in our hearts with His healing love. The Bible tells us the one who is forgiven much, loves much. As we forgive, and as we are forgiven, we have a greater capacity to love others.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. — Matthew 6: 14–15

Judith MacNutt Judith MacNutt is author, teacher, conference speaker and co–founder and president of CHM. 2018 Vol. 05