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Friday, January 9, 2015

Choose Forgiveness

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, NIV).

Have you ever been hurt? I have. Does your heart feel cold and hard when you remember what someone has done? Mine has felt that way. Have you been unable to forgive? I have been there, too. But through the years I have learned that the inability to forgive is like a terrible cancerous disease. It eats at your spiritual health and ultimately destroys your relationship with God. Because God has given us a free will to either choose or reject Him, we also have a free will to either forgive or not to forgive. 

In today's verse in Luke, Jesus explains that if we don't judge, we will not be judged. If we don't condemn, we will not be condemned. If we forgive, we will be forgiven. Isn’t the inability to forgive really judgment of that person? Our hurt and our pain does not give us a license to judge that person. It does not give us a license to allow anger and hate to consume our hearts. In fact Jesus explains in Luke 6:35-36 that we are to “love our enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” We are to love those that hurt us. We are to extend goodness. We can't harbor bitterness. It will only breed more hurt and devastation within our own lives. We forgive without expecting anything in return. Those we forgive may not receive our forgiveness. But we are to be merciful anyway. Just as Jesus forgives us, we forgive others.

When we are devastated by someone's action, we have a choice what to do with the hurt and the bitterness. If we allow that hurt to define who we are, that pain can immobilize us We find ourselves in bondage to our bitterness and hate. It directs our lives, and consumes our waking and sleeping moments. Jesus wants us to be free of the controlling terror of unforgiveness. The Holy Spirit invites us to forgive so that we might be free from its bondage. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” Paul writes (2 Corinthians 3:17). God does not want us in bondage to our hurt. If we know the Lord, we have the freedom and the power to forgive.

I once heard the parents of a murdered girl speak of forgiving her murderer. They talked freely about letting the anger go, and wanting to be free of the burden of being victims. They wanted to move forward and not be in an emotional prison. They knew they needed to let go of their pain, and surrender the burden of wanting to get even. They had the freedom to choose either bitterness or forgiveness. With Christ's power they were able to forgive. With His power, we can make the same decision.

We become exhausted holding on to the pain of unforgiveness. Grabbing on to the bars of our emotional prison, we shake and demand our jailor to release us. The truth is we have jailed ourselves. We keep asking God to release the pain, and all along we have had the key to open the door. With the power of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness sets us free. Are we ready to be released from our bondage of resentment, bitterness, anger, hurt, frustration, hatred, and all that claims a hard heart? If we choose to let all unforgiveness go. His power will enable our choice and transform our heart. We, who He has set free, will truly be free.

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