Forgiveness is hard. I have to admit that in me there is a desire to see justice done. I want that person who hurt me to feel the same hurt, the same pain and the same sorrow that I feel. I want what they did to me to be done to them. I want them to pay for what they said and what they did. I want them to be punished. These past few days I realized that unforgiveness has taken root in my heart. I seek justice for the wrong that was done to me, but it goes deeper than that, I seek this person’s death. These are pretty harsh words I am speaking, but if I cannot be open and real with you about the ugliness that is in my heart- then I might as well hang up the pen and never write again. My unforgiveness, my desire to see this person pay for what they did to me is the same as seeking the death penalty for a criminal. The wages of sin are death, and unforgiveness seeks that payment and will not be satisfied until it gets it.
“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12 ESV
Forgiveness is the removal of hurt, the desire for justice to be removed and not only removed, but deleted from existence. Jesus’ death on the cross not only removed our sins, but it also deleted any and all punishment that we should experience because of it. His death brought forgiveness and deleted the punishment that justice demanded from our sins. When someone hurts us they have sinned against us. Their misstep, their failure to treat us in love has caused us to feel pain, loss, grief, and anger. Their sins have made us feel the hurt of injustice. Immediately I want justice, immediately I want them to be punished for what they have just done to me.
Here is a truth I believe we need to grasp and carry in the very depths of our souls until we see Him face to face. Every time I sin I cause that same hurt, pain, loss and grief to pierce into the heart of my Father God. We feel the injustice done to us by sin, and so does He. He feels every act of disobedience to His commands deeply, personally, just like we do- if not more than we do. Yet He chooses to take that hurt and that pain and send it as far as the East is from the West. (Psalm 103:12)
“bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13 ESV
Paul tells us that if we have a complaint against anyone, we need to forgive them. A complaint is something we blame someone else for. We blame them for the hurt they caused us, the words they said, the things they did. We blame them for the sins that were committed against us through their selfish actions. Being hurt by the sins of others is basic human life. You know it is true- people suck. We are mean, self seeking, hurtful people. We hurt just as much as we are hurt. We are going to be misjudged and we are going to judge. We are going to feel pain and we are going to cause pain. We are all sinners who need a Savior. No matter our title, job, or place in the Kingdom of God, we are all sinners in need of a Savior and, let’s be real- we suck as people.
That same betrayal that we feel when we are sinned against is the same betrayal our Lord felt as He hung upon that cross. He feels so deeply the weight of our sins every time we disobey His words to us. When we sin, we hurt our God and Father just as much, if not more, than others have hurt us. Just as the Lord has forgiven us, just as He has graciously bestowed a divine favor upon us, we must now do the same for that person who wronged us. Release their wrong and throw it as far as the East is from the West. Hit delete and empty the recycle bin of your heart. Don’t let their sin cause you to sin against your God. Cleanse the hurt, the pain and the debt of justice from you. Delete it from your life.
In Matthew 18 our Lord Jesus tells us a parable of a servant who owed a lot of money to his master. His master called him to come and pay it. The servant could not pay it. “So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:26-27 ESV) Remember when Christ was hanging on the cross and He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do?” (Luke 23:34) Just as you justify your sins before God, so does the person who wronged you justify their sins against you. But we are to have compassion. We are to have pity for that person because God has had pity upon us.
The injustice done to us, the sin that was committed against us only has one payment- death. The death of that person is the only injustice that will satisfy the penalty. When we choose to not forgive we are saying that their death is the only thing that can or ever will satisfy our desire for justice. We are telling the Lord that we have no desire for that person to be forgiven, so therefore, no need to forgive us either. Unforgiveness chooses the punishment over the pity.
The master released the servant. The one who could never satisfy the requirement of the debt was released, set free from every having to pay it ever again. The debt owed was deleted. It was dismissed as if it had never happened. Our sins, my sins against my God demand my death. They demand justice for the wrongs and the pain I have committed against Him. But He dismissed them. He released me from any debt owed Him upon His cross. He deleted my wrongs, my sins, my failures and all the pain I have or ever will cause Him, because He took pity upon me.
I am here before you to confess that I am the wicked servant. I am still demanding payment for a sin that has already been paid for. I am demanding death when I have been forgiven death. I am holding onto the injustice instead of seeking the compassion that is needed most. Unforgiveness is easy to walk in. I think I am over the wrong done to me. I think that I am over the pain and the hurt then someone says something, or does something and it all comes rushing back in again. The root of it is still buried in the depths of my unforgiving heart. My heart cries out for justice, but my Lord calls to me and tells me to have compassion. My heart yearns for their punishment, but His cross calls out for forgiveness.
“And should not you have hand mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” Matthew 18:30 ESV
Your fellow servant, the one who has wronged you is no different than you are. We have all committed sins against others and against our God. No one is sinless except Christ. They owe a debt to God for their sins just like we do. We are all of the same cloth, the same cut, the same condition. We are all in need of a Savior. This person is my fellow slave, my fellow servant. The way the Lord forgives me, loves me, and has pity on me is the same way He is asking me to treat this person who wronged me. He forgives me, I must forgive them. I need to hit the delete button once and for all and get rid of this need I have to see justice come upon this person. But the only way to truly forgive is to completely let go and release this person to the Lord. Let the hurt and the pain that has taken root in my heart be once and for all healed by the saving truth that I too am in need of forgiveness.
“And in his anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.” Matthew 18:34
You will never be able to repay the debt you owe to the Lord, and they will never be able to pay the debt they owe to you. The penalty for sin is death, we all deserve it. We all deserve to be tossed into the chains of our sins. There are no excuses, and no one can excuse their behavior or ours. We sin against God and we sin against one another. But we are the ones who choose the chains of death when we choose unforgiveness. We choose to stay in our pain and our hurt when we refuse to forgive as we have been forgiven. God did not require us to pay the debt; He freely and willingly poured out His mercy and forgave us. We have to delete all the wrongs from our lives, just as He has deleted ours from His. We must forgive.
“So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:35
God will not allow us to continue in our demands for justice. If anyone has the right to demand justice it is our just God and not us. If we do not forgive their trespasses, He will not forgive ours and we will continue to walk in burdens and chains, in death and despair, in a justice that will never be fulfilled. He released us from our debts; we must now choose to release them from theirs. It is not about the hurt that they have caused us; it is about the pain we cause Him when we choose to not forgive. We must forgive. We must hit delete. Amen.