Forgiveness. We willingly receive it, but oftentimes won’t give it away. It’s what restored relationship with God, but we, too many times, won’t allow it to restore our earthly relationships. We so often stand in need of it, yet won’t let anyone else stand there.
Jesus spoke pretty plainly about the importance of forgiveness. There have been so many teachings about forgiveness. But today, I simply want to look at Matthew 18:35, where Jesus said we must forgive “from the heart“. What does He mean by that? Many times when the Bible uses the word “heart“, it is referring to our soul. Our soul is made up of three parts: your thoughts, your feelings, and your will. They all work in tandem. I have a thought, I attach it to my feelings, and from there, I choose how I will respond. So, if Jesus said to forgive from the heart, He was saying forgive in your thoughts, your feelings, and your will. But how do we do that?
FORGIVE FROM YOUR WILL
To forgive from your will means that you make a conscious choice to forgive. You choose not to think about it, not to dwell on it, not to let your emotions start leading you, and not to act upon it. You must choose each day whom you will serve. Will you serve the past wrongs that someone has done to you? Will you feed the wounds that God wants to heal and you just continue to rip open? Once you make a choice to forgive, sometimes, you have to make that choice over and over again; especially if you have to see this person often. Regardless, you get to choose if your valuable and fleeting time will be spent seething in anger or licking your wounds, or serving the purposes of God by doing what he made you to do.
“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
FORGIVE FROM YOUR THOUGHTS
To forgive from your thoughts means that you intentionally choose to take any negative thought captive. Left unattended, negative thoughts or reminders of what the person did to you, will lead you down the road of unforgiveness, rehearsing pain over and over again, and even thinking revengeful thoughts. To truly forgive someone is to no longer dwell on the past experience and hurt. To take your thoughts captive really means that instead of your thoughts controlling you, you control your thoughts! You will only think about things that are good. That way, you will have peace instead of turmoil in your heart.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
FORGIVE FROM YOUR EMOTIONS
To forgive from your emotions means that you choose to invite the Spirit to develop in you the fruit of self-control. So often, we let our emotions overrule logic, and become irrational, and out of control in our responses. That’s because we allowed our emotions free reign. Our emotions were never intended to lead us. They were intended to help us see where we are at and make the adjustments we need to align ourselves back with Jesus. They are just an indicator for us, they are not to control us.
“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” Romans 8:6
Jesus then is questioned about divorce. You know that this is dear to my heart because of what Dale and I went through. [If you haven’t read our story of the death, burial, and resurrection of our marriage, click HERE!] Jesus explained that divorce was permitted but not commanded. Marriage is to be exclusive and ideally, for a lifetime. However, make no mistake about it: God is much more concerned about preventing divorce than permitting or punishing it. Jesus said that many people divorced, because their “hearts were hard“. Maybe had forgiveness been primary in the relationship, divorce wouldn’t have been an option. The most thriving marriages have two thriving forgivers.
So the question I asked myself today was simply this: am I forgiving others “from the heart“? Lord, help us to be good forgivers who offer it freely because it was so freely given to us. In Jesus’ name.