Forgiveness Breaks Chains!
By Robert Tidwell
On any news channel or website, you will find stories surrounded with hatred, bitterness, and violence. Expose yourself to enough of these dark stories and darkness will be all that you see in the world. All this pain, treachery, and anger are weeds that have grown from the seed of unforgiveness in the human heart.
What is unforgiveness?
We have all experienced brokenness, whether it is from the death of a loved one, a hard break-up, or someone doing us wrong. It’s not fun. I honestly hope this article finds you well, but if you are going through pain caused by another human, I too know that pain. Through scripture and the mercy of Christ, I have learned that love overcomes emotional pain and that we may find true life in loving the people who have hurt us.
Simply stated unforgiveness is the opposite of love. And, love is important because it is a central feature of God’s two greatest commandments. (Matthew 22:36 - 40) The world’s behavior is out of our control, but each of us, even you, is important to God. We could focus on what is wrong with the world, but it is more beneficial for each of us to focus on the unforgiveness in our own hearts. I want to encourage you to explore with me how God wants us to use forgiveness to spread His love.
Look at Luke 10, when Jesus is asked how to inherit eternal life?
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” (Luke 10: 25 – 28 NLT)
To illustrate his point Jesus goes on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan, where a man is beaten half to death, tossed into a ditch along the side of the road, and abandoned to die. Both a priest and a Levite pass the beaten man without helping him, but a despised Samaritan comes along and picks him up, bandages his wounds, and brings him to an inn where he can recover. The Samaritan even goes into financial debt by paying for the beaten man’s room and recovery.
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10: 36 – 37 NLT)
Jesus tells us to show mercy to our neighbors. Who is our neighbor? Our neighbor is everybody, even people who have hurt us. The same goes for the poor, the fatherless, the stranger, the gay man, the politician, and even the religious Pharisee. We are called to show mercy to all. That is what God’s mercy looks like.
What is the importance of showing mercy to the people who have hurt us, sometimes multiple times, and how does showing mercy help us to love?
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21 – 22 NLT)
Humans are going to fail us, hurt us, cheat us, and do us wrong throughout life. When God forgave us of everything, he commanded us to do the same without condition or limit.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
(Matthew 6:14 – 15 NLT)
God takes forgiveness seriously. I am not trying to scare you, change you, or force you to do anything you are not ready to do. That is not love. I have been hurt and have needed release from pain. I realized that God, despite humanity’s evil and disobedience, bitterness and violence, still reaches out to forgive us. And in His forgiveness and in His love, I have learned that I am called to do the same.
Trapped in bitterness, I began forgiving people who caused me pain. Showing forgiveness lifted me up, healed me, and broke chains that held me down. Through scripture I discovered Love forgives all wrongs and holds no grudges. Because it is part of God’s truth, it has the power to set us free. (See 1 Cor 13:4 – 8) (See John 8:32)
Forgiveness is a lifestyle that requires practice. But it is a lifestyle that freed me from emotional pain and guilt. Because I am forgiven, I forgive.
When we forgive, we are set free to do good because God has forgiven us. We are free to focus on other things besides our pain. We can love somebody who is hurt, feed a homeless man, visit someone in prison, give someone clothing, and do other acts of good. We are free to love Jesus back, because when we do acts of good to someone in need, we are doing them unto Jesus. (See Matthew 25: 31 – 40)
When I started living a lifestyle of caring for others through deeds, not just words, I became so full of joy and life. Chains that held me back before, were broken.
When we spread the love of God in our forgiveness and care for people in need, then pain, darkness, and a world full of hate no longer have power over us. Through Christ we are the light of the world, and our love for others shines great in the darkness.
Robert Tidwell is the media and visual director for Christian Counseling Finder as well as the worship leader at Ponce Church, in Ponce Inlet FL.