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Friday, March 10, 2017

Freedom to Forgive

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, NLT).

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? 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 Luke 6:37 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 grace. 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 pain that arises. 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 its control. 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, NIV). God does not want us in bondage to our emotional pain. 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 desiring to be free of the burden of being victims. Wanting 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 yearning 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.

Holding on to the pain of unforgiveness is exhausting. 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 at work in us, 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 forgive, then we surrender what we believe we have a right to own. His power will enable our choice and transform our heart. “I will give you a new heart,” the Lord promises, “and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT).

Do you want to have a tender responsive heart?  You have the freedom to extend grace. Give, and you will receive. “Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38, NLT). 
(Copyright 2017 Lynn Hampton Lacher)

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