If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” – John 20:23
We have only preached half of the gospel of forgiveness. We have preached about asking God to forgive our own sins, while ignoring the other half, which is forgiving those who have wronged us.
We haven’t placed nearly enough importance on this single issue of forgiving others. Once we do, our whole lives will change.
Our sins will be forgiven only to the extent that we forgive others. Jesus said this multiple times.
Unforgiveness breeds hardness of heart, and hardness of heart prevents miraculous healings. I’m not talking about hardness of heart in the person who is sick. I’m talking about hardness of heart in the person asking for their healing. My husband has been sick for a long time and all my prayers for him were ineffective. Why? Because of MY hardness of heart (see Mark 3:5). Now that I have dealt with my hardened heart before the Lord, our marriage is healed. Forgiveness is powerful. His physical healing may or may not come, but my heart is now tender toward my husband. That’s huge.
When God shows us the current state of our hearts, when we recognize the unforgiveness and the hardened heart, we can repent before the Lord and begin to see massive changes in our lives.
We have not seen healing in America on the scale that we have wanted to. Part of the reason for this, I believe, is because we have not extended forgiveness like we need to.
I was taught many times to be unoffensible, which means to not take offense at others when they do wrong to me. But I don’t think that this is a fully biblical response. We should turn the other cheek, yes. We shouldn’t be offended by every little thing, which is so rampant and contagious these days. But I think God wants us to recognize and realize the wrongs done to us and how they have hurt us. Sometimes it is right that we should be angry. Rape scars a person. Abuse leaves lasting damage. To look honestly at wrongs of this scale takes a great deal of courage. But when we look honestly at the hurt, then we can extend full forgiveness.
Choosing to radically and fully forgive those who hurt us can bring forgiveness to us. There are many conditional statements in the Old Testament, but very few in the New Testament. The main conditional statement in the New Testament is this: if you forgive others you will be forgiven. Conversely, if you do not forgive others, you will not be forgiven. The forgiveness we extend to others is powerful. It can mean our own healing. It can mean healing for our loved ones. If we forgive them they are forgiven, John 20:23.
The process of healing bitterness doesn’t mean glossing over the wrongs done to us. It isn’t pretending that the wrongs didn’t happen. It’s acknowledging that wrongs have happened, and then fully forgiving those people who have wronged us. After we forgive, we wash those hurt places in the blood of Jesus, and we ask the Holy Spirit to fill that spot that was once filled with hurt and bitterness. He fills that place with His unrelenting love and resurrection power.
The story of Joseph illustrates this very well. When Joseph’s brothers came to see him in Egypt, his strange actions demonstrated that his hurt was real. The damage to his heart was real. But it was not permanent. God healed those hurt places. God came in and showed Joseph how to live without bitterness. We can see that by how fully he embraced his brothers when he revealed himself (Genesis 45).
God gave him the revelation that although they meant it for evil (which is Joseph acknowledging the terrible things they did), God meant it for good. (Gen. 50:20)
We know we have fully forgiven others when we don’t simply turn the other cheek, but we pray blessing upon them. When we want them to be embraced by the Father and if we are rejoicing with great joy if they have a better life than we do, we know that forgiveness is real and solid and lasting.
If we forgive them but feel justified that they are going to have bad things happen to them then the forgiveness is not real. If we do not fully acknowledge how terrible a person’s sin against us is, we often do not fully embrace forgiveness for that person.
Once we see how truly ugly it can be to harbor unforgiveness, we begin to extend forgiveness much more readily. Because that person may have done something terrible, but worse still is refusing to forgive.
Here’s to a life full of forgiveness!
About the Author:
Precarious Yates has lived in 8 different states of the Union and 3 different countries, but currently lives in Texas with her husband, her daughter and their one mastiff and four Pyrenees dogs, three sheep and nine chickens. When she’s not writing, she enjoys music, teaching, playing on jungle gyms and reading. She holds a masters in the art of making tea and coffee and a PhD in Slinky® disentangling.