We all have made agreements with lies. Those agreements in turn produce behaviors we are all trying to ﬁx. And when we discover those agreements and break them, we ﬁnd freedom. It’s a simple concept. Yet there is also a complicated thing that keeps many people from pulling this off: unforgiveness. Unforgiveness prevents many Christians from experiencing the WILD that God has for them. You. Yes, you have more abundance waiting for you on the other side of forgiveness.
When our kids were young and got into a ﬁght, we would always make them apologize to each other and then forgive each other. To be honest, we still make them do this, and they are teenagers. I’ll never forget the time I asked Seanna to ask Sohaila’s forgiveness for hurting her. I can’t remember the exact situation, but there was blood involved, and I could tell Seanna actually felt bad. Lots of screaming from her ﬁve-year-old sister and lots of feeling bad about it from the four-year-old.
“I’m swawwy, Sohaila. I didn’t mean to hwuut you. Will you forgive me?” said Seanna.
Please tell me you read that with an adorable four-year-old lisp.
To Seanna’s surprise, Sohaila said, “I forgive you,” and immediately jumped up to go and play on the trampoline.
Seanna looked perplexed when her previously impaired sister was suddenly healed and able to run off to play. I’ll never forget this. Ever.
Seanna ran straight up to Sohaila and said, “Never mind. I thought you were more hurt. I take back my sorry.”
Isn’t this the case with us too? Our forgiveness is so wrapped up in our own emotions. This is not the kind of forgiveness God is talking about in Scripture. The godly forgiveness we are talking about here is the PRIMARY POSTURE that will lead us all to abundance and freedom, to WILD. As long as there is any sort of unforgiveness in our hearts, our path toward life to the full will be blocked. Unforgiveness is an actual roadblock with no way around it.
We won’t ever get to experience all that God has for us unless we truly understand what forgiveness is. So let’s deﬁne it. I like how Chester and Betsy Kylstra deﬁne it in their book Biblical Healing and Deliverance: “Forgiveness is the principal activity and heart attitude needed to pave the way for freedom.” You see, what happens when we choose to forgive someone is that we are actually releasing them into freedom. Them. Not us. Do you see the massive difference? No more plans of retaliation. No more secretly resenting them from afar. No more waiting for them to offer some sort of sacriﬁce in return. No, they are free. The dictionary gives us this deﬁnition of forgive: “to cease to feel resentment against.” But I actually like the deﬁnition of pardon better, which is “the excusing of an offense without exacting a penalty?” This is what the gospel offers. God the Father doesn’t just cease to feel resentment against us. No. He actually pardons us. That’s divine forgiveness.
DIVINE FORGIVENESS? Yes, ma’am. Now we’re talking.
It’s clear from Scripture how essential forgiveness is for us to live life to the full. Mark 11:25 reads, “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Now I’m not going to go so far as to say that God will not forgive us if we are not forgiving our brothers and sisters, but I will say IT SEEMS PRETTY IMPORTANT TO GOD HERE.
Just after Jesus shares His famous method for prayer, He says, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). There is clearly a correlation between forgiving others and receiving God’s love. Again, I don’t think it’s because God is withholding forgiveness from us. I think we are the ones who keep His full forgiveness at arm’s length when we don’t actively forgive those who have sinned against us.
Once more in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks to this topic with the parable of the unmerciful servant. Jesus concludes by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (18:35).
Yep. Forgiveness seems to be essential in our walk with God. As we saw in this last verse, it has to be gut-level forgiveness. This is not the shallow Seanna-at-four-years-old kind of forgiveness.
When we enter into that heart forgiveness, we can lean into verses such as 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There it is. The entire gospel seems strongly linked to forgiveness. In fact, it is at the crux of our salvation and, I would add, our satisfaction in life on this side of heaven. Forgiveness unlocks it all.
Carlos and Heather Whittaker appear this Thursday on LIFE TODAY. Adapted from Enter Wild: Exchange a Mild and Mundane Faith for Life with an Uncontainable God. Copyright ©2020 by Carlos Enrique Whittaker. Used by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.