Letting Go by Forgiving
When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, Jesus gives them the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) This prayer Jesus taught us to pray has been prayed by Christians ever since. Forgiveness is one of the important parts of the Lord’s Prayer. Right in the middle of this short prayer we read: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12) We ask the Father to forgive our sins as we forgive others who have wronged us.
Jesus doesn’t just suggest, but He commands his followers to forgive. It’s all important. When Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive a fellow church member who sins against him seven times, Jesus gives him a surprising answer! “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seven times seventy,” Jesus tell Peter. (Matthew 18:21-24) I think Jesus was saying that we should always forgive!
Right after Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven, He told another of His stories or parables about the importance of forgiveness. (Matthew 18:23-35) This story of Jesus’ tells of a servant who owes the king ten thousand talents (millions of dollars). Because this servant cannot pay back his enormous debt, he is sentenced to prison. But the servant cries and moans and begs the king for mercy and for more time to pay his debt, and the king is moved by his servant’s cries and forgives his debt and sets the servant free.
Soon after the servant runs into one of his friends who owes him a hundred denarii (a few dollars). He grabs his friend by the neck and demands his money. But when the friend cannot pay, the servant orders that his friend be put in prison.
Jesus says that when the king hears that his servant has not forgiven his friend for not being able to pay back his small debt immediately, he calls his servant in and asks him why he has not forgiven his friend the small debt when his king has forgiven him his huge debt. The king sends his servant to jail until he can pay back his huge debt. And Jesus closes his story by saying: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)
Scripture tells us that if we are followers of Christ, that our heavenly Father has forgiven all of our sins. (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 1:9) Because God has forgiven our many sins, we are to be children of our heavenly Father and also forgive the sins of others.
What is forgiveness? When a wife (or husband) is in a marriage where she/he is being abused (beaten, hit, harmed, etc.), I do not believe that forgiveness means that the abused spouse must continue allowing the abuser to hurt or harm her/him over and over again - enabling the abuse. Forgiveness does not mean that the one being abused must stay and continue being abused again and again. But forgiveness means that the abused one gets out of harm’s way and then does not carry a heavy load of bitterness around against the abuser, never letting it go. We humans are not strong enough to carry the weight of unforgiveness and hate around in our lives.
Many of us don’t take Jesus’ command to forgive as seriously as we should. I know I don’t. It is so easy to hold grievances against others. So difficult to always forgive! To let it go! Sometimes we enjoy being angry and not forgiving. How do we as followers of Christ, obey His command to forgive?
Adam Hamilton in his book, “Forgiveness, Finding Peace through Letting Go”, says that refusing to forgive another person who has wronged us is like putting a stone in our backpack and carrying it around everywhere with us. We cannot be lighthearted and free when we are burdened down carrying around the heavy stones of unforgiveness. Our lives as children of God are meant to be characterized by grace and forgiveness, not resentments and bitterness.
Adam Hamilton suggests one small method of letting go of the offences we are holding against the person who sinned against us. It is a game we can play when someone has not treated us fairly and we are upset with them. First remember the letters “R”, “A” and “P” – “RAP”. Starting with “R” which stands for: “Remember your own shortcomings” The letter “A” stands for: “Assume the best in people who wronged you”, and the letter “P” stands for: “Pray for the one who wronged you.”
When you are irritated with another person, stand back and “Remember” that you perhaps have wronged others too. Then, “Assume” the best of the person bothering you. Remember the good that the person has done. Perhaps he can’t help the way he is acting now, or perhaps he didn’t intend to harm you. And “Pray” for the offending person. It is easier to forgive a person when you stop and pray for him/her. And keep praying for God to help you forgive. You are big enough, with God’s help, to let your unforgiveness go.
Adam Hamilton in his book “Finding Peace through Letting Go” writes about how to deal with the really big sins that you may be called upon during your life to forgive. Murder, betrayal, criminal acts, etc. He compares the really big sins to really big stones that we may have to keep chipping away at until we can finally stop carrying them around with us. We may have to pray every day for a long time. We give God our anger one day and then we take some of it back the next. Back and forth, little by little. But we must keep chipping away until we have given it all to God.
We only hurt ourselves when we keep carrying resentment and hate, even when a crime has been committed against us or our loved ones. Choose not to give the wrongdoer power over you by hauling around a large stone of resentment. Do not let it define you. Scripture tells us that on purpose God chose to forget our sins. He chooses to forgive and forget. (Isaiah 43:25) So, on purpose choose to forget to hold onto your heavy stone of unforgiveness. On purpose forgive and forget.
We find peace and freedom when we let go of our resentments and give them to God. When we let go of any anger we have over the loss we may have suffered. Let go of any games we could play against the offender. Let go and trust God to take care of us and our loved ones, if we love Him. (Romans 8:28) Let go and trust God with our whole problem. Let go and trust in His Sovereignty. Count on God our Father to carry you through. He can do it! He has promised that He will. (Isaiah 43:2) Lay down your heavy burden at His feet and just let it go!