The Best Gift I Can Give Myself

A quote from an unknown source reads: “Forgive your enemies. It’ll drive them crazy.” We are going to focus on one of the most important subjects of our Christian walk: forgiveness.

I will not let the past determine my future. How I handle hurt determines how I will move forward. I may have had a friend who wronged me, a parent who abused me, or a mate who betrayed me. The key is forgiveness: nothing is more difficult, nothing is more essential.

What is God’s attitude toward us? Romans 8:1 says there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. 1John 1:9 promises that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God is all about reconciliation, restoration, forgiveness. Romans 4:8 says, “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Colossians 2:13-14 from The Message puts it this way: “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.” I remember the day we paid off the loan on our house and received the mortgage back stamped: Paid in full. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” The payment was complete.

If God has forgiven me how can I not forgive others? In the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:14-15), Jesus instructs us to pray, “Forgive us our debts AS we forgive our debtors.” God, forgive me to the extent I am willing to forgive others. Don’t like that? Maybe you want to tear that out of your Bible. You will have to tear out quite a bit. Jesus says the same thing in five places in the Gospels: Matthew 6:12, 14-15, Matthew 18:35, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37 and Luke 11:4.

Let’s look at the signs of unforgiveness. To do that we will look at the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. If you are not familiar with the full story, you can read it in Luke 15:25-30.

  • Unforgiveness keeps score. The older brother whines, “All these years I’ve served you.” Peter was doing that in Matthew 18:21, “How many times must I forgive? Seven time?” Jesus corrected him, “Seventy times seven times.”  1Cor 13:5 warns, “Love doesn’t keep count.” Our flesh wants to keep dragging things up from the past and the result is the list of offenses gets longer and longer, the bondage stronger and stronger.
  • Unforgiveness has a superior attitude. “I’ve never transgressed your command.” The older brother is saying, “I’m good and he’s bad.”
  • Unforgiveness is a complainer. “You never did anything for me.” In unforgiveness we see only negative, not positive.
  • Unforgiveness has a martyr complex. “I did all the work.” This is an exaggeration, of course, but the hurt and bitterness blinds us.
  • Unforgiveness brings division. The older brother doesn’t refer to “my brother” but rather “your son.” Unforgiveness      causes us to withdraw and see the world as “them” against “me”.

“But they never asked for forgiveness!” That doesn’t matter. I once had a boss who said glowing things about me to my face and then cut me down behind my back. The result was I lost my job. Several years later I was walking into the grocery store just as he was walking out. I said, “Hi” and continued into the store. Once inside the Lord stopped me and said, “You haven’t forgiven him, have you?” “Darn right I haven’t!” (pause) “Well?” (longer pause) Finally through clenched teeth I said, “I forgive him.” “Again.” “I forgive him.” It took a few times but eventually it took root in my spirit. A few years later I saw him again in a restaurant and I could go up to him and say, “It’s good to see you. I hope all is going well for you.” And I meant it. There was no sign of repentance on his part but now I was free.

When we choose unforgiveness, we choose bitterness. Our son and his fiancé were killed by a drunk driver. At that time we faced the opportunity to adopt a victim mentality. We went to Ephesians 4:31-32 where we are told we must forgive one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven us. Hebrews 12:15 warns us to see to it that no one misses the grace of God, that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble defiling many. We can miss God’s grace through unforgiveness. That root can go down deep. The longer I hold on, the deeper it goes. It affects every aspect of my life: relationships, job, and spiritual walk. Ultimately it will defile those around me.

OK, sure. We know we need to forgive. But there is a difference between knowing and doing. Here are six things to keep in mind in order to step into forgiveness:

  1. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:12tells us, “For Gill’s wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Don’t give Satan an open door through unforgiveness.
  2. Forgiveness is not forgetting. We will always remember the death of our son, but we can still choose to forgive. Healing cannot occur until forgiveness takes place. Until then Satan has the advantage.
  3. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Without forgiveness I am still hooked to them, still chained to the past. Do I keep a doll up on a shelf to remind me of that person and take it down periodically to beat on it? Who is that hurting?  “You don’t understand how much so-and-so hurt me.” And they continue to hurt you until you let go. I don’t forgive for their sake but for mine. I will live with the consequences of their actions. It is my choice whether I will live in bitterness or freedom.
  4. Change the channel. When thoughts of unforgiveness and bitterness come in, don’t grab the popcorn and settle back in your recliner. With that approach, is there any wonder you are bitter and depressed? 2Corinthians 10:5 warns us to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”. Choose where your thoughts will focus.
  5. Forgiveness does not necessarily entail reconciliation. It is a good thing but not always possible. An abused wife can forgive but not reconcile to her husband. Reconciliation requires reestablishing trust through repentance, rehabilitation and restitution by the offending party. (That is an important process to remember when we are the offender: repentance,      rehabilitation and restitution.) Unforgiveness by the offended party only keeps them bound to that hurt. Unforgiveness is a prison. Let God be the debt collector so you can get on with your life.
  6. Don’t wait for them. Jesus didn’t wait for you. Romans 5:8 says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. When we choose to forgive, Satan loses his power in that area. At the cross, Jesus defeated Satan’s power. Let’s not give it back through unforgiveness. Rom 12:21 commands,  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Here is the challenge: Take the time to recall each of those who have hurt you. It might be father, mother, brother or sister. Perhaps a girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse. We may have to forgive God if we have felt He didn’t come through in a way that we wanted. Most certainly we need to forgive ourselves for poor choices that have brought unwanted consequences. Now, pray this prayer: “Lord, I forgive each of those who have hurt me. I choose not to hold any of these things against them any longer. I thank you for setting me free from the bondage of bitterness. I ask You to bless each of them with the fullness of your love in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Maybe you felt a burden lift as you said that prayer; maybe you felt a warmth flood over you; maybe you felt nothing. The feeling is not the important thing, the decision is. Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust death camps, wrote, “Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was me.” Don’t live in bondage to that hurt any longer. Do yourself a favor, step into freedom. The best gift you can give yourself is to forgive.

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6 Comments on “The Best Gift I Can Give Myself”

  1. I like your thoughts about forgiveness! So true! Thanks.

  2. Modupe Sandra Bawa Says:

    This is wonderful am blessed reading it

  3. Edwina udoji Says:

    I feel blessed when I stumbled on the personalized Bible. Thank God for His direction.

  4. Kilishi Says:

    Iam richly blessed by this article.i now have a better
    insight and understanding of the word unforgiveness. I have been battling with this unforgiven spirit but now I feel relief as the burden is lifted by this message.

  5. Funke Adeleke Says:

    I am fully blessed with this message. It really lifts my spirit.

  6. Emah Ekpo Says:

    I was in bondage of unforgiveness for twenty five years It retarded my progress for twenty five years When i was set free through divine revelation things started looking up for me .My progress became rapid.Now if am hurt i forgive easily.I even reach out to my offenders to make peace.Unforgiveness is indeed imprisonment.You cannot even make heaven with unforgiveness

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