The lack of forgiveness is very painful if you have asked for that forgiveness. God always gives it to us. Other people are not so accomodating. Some people will not forgive you. It is a volitional decision on their part. It would seem that the people in the church would be the first to forgive but sometimes they become the last they have chosen to throw you into the Prison of Bitterness.
The inability to forgive has probably been the most common sin that will block a victorious life. It is critical that an unforgiving spirit be resolved. We are required by God to forgive other people. Christ said, "If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matt 6:14-15). You will never have victory in your Christian experience if there is an unforgiving spirit in your heart. The result is bitterness harbored in your heart. If forgiveness is not extended, then you have given part of your soul to the Dark Prince of Evil, and freedom will not come.
An unforgiving spirit is one of the primary tools Satan uses to gain access to a believer's life. We are admonished by Paul to forgive one another "in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes" (2 Cor 2:11). Failure to forgive one another may have become one of the biggest sins of the church. As a result, Satan has been able to put his grip on us - hindering God's ability to release us from the effects of sin. It is also critical that the believer extends forgiveness to himself, and experiences freedom with himself.
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Eph 4:31,32). "Be merciful, as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36). "Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col 3:13).
Who are we to forgive? We should forgive everyone whose name brings up feelings of bitterness or anger. It does not matter how wrong the person was or how much they hurt you, we are commanded to forgive. Forgiveness is a matter of the will, not the emotions. We must first determine to forgive someone, and then stand, determined to renounce all wicked bitter thoughts that come to mind, telling them that they must go because forgiveness has been extended. Eventually the emotions will change.
There are two concepts that are essential to freeing ourselves from the prison of bitterness. Without them we have no basis for coming to God. The first is our concept of the Atonement. If our idea of the death of Jesus Christ is that of a vague, remote happening which is unrelated to our forgiveness of others, then our forgiveness is impossible. But if we understand the Atonement and its relationship between our forgiveness and the forgiveness of others then it is easy to say, "Father forgive them."
The second concept is just as valid today, "The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all." If our feeling is that of self-sufficiency, inflated ego, and exalted status, we are not in the position to understand the greatness of grace. It is only as we come to the foot of the cross, humbly confessing our dependence upon God can we really find forgiveness.
Imperatives of Forgiveness
- Understanding the greatness of the debt.
- Understanding the Atonement and its relationship between God and ourselves, and between ourselves and our fellowman.
- Ever wonder why the king forgave the full debt when the slave was only asking for an extension on the debt?
First, notice that the slave did not ask for forgiveness. He was relying upon his own abilities, ". . .I will pay thee all." The slave did not fully understand the greatness of his debt. Ten thousand talents at today’s standard, would be in excess of $20 million dollars!
Second, grace is the only means by which a debt of this size could be handled. The slave had no means by which he could repay this enormous debt. The king could only forgive the debt. The same is so with our salvation, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. Eph. 2:4-9
Rationalizations Hindering Forgiveness
- Blaming others for our problems
- Justifying our actions and attitudes.
- Ever wonder why Slave #1 used violence to collect a debt of $20, when he had been forgiven of a $20 million debt? What could trigger such a violent reaction?
It is our natural inclination to find other people to blame for our problems. The greater the guilt we have, the more we must blame to balance the guilt. The resulting bitterness is devastating to our lives.
- Slave #1 was no different than we are, he needed to find someone to blame for his $20 million debt.
- Slave #2, just happened to be the first one to come to his mind. Slave#2, owed Slave #1, $20.00. This placed him on the receiving end of Slave#1's blame.
- Slave#1 felt he would not have been in the situation if Slave #2 had only paid him, what was owed. There is no other action that could be taken but to throw Slave$#2 in jail. Slave#1 felt justified in his actions.
- Ever wonder why a loving God would turn you or me over to the tormentors?
- How can an non-payable debt be paid by going to jail?
- There is no redeeming value in torture.
- What then is God's reasoning for His actions?
It is essential we recognize and confess our wrong actions against those whom we have put in the spiritual prison of bitterness. It is important we confess and change our wrong attitudes which have resulted in our actions and attitudes toward others.
This is usually more difficult than realized. Being so involved with our own personal thoughts and emotions we fail to realize the attitudes which we are reflecting to the people around us.
People react to our attitudes. It is, therefore, more essential that we learn to "judge ourselves" before we judge others. To analyze the characters involved in this story we must look at the following:
Slave #1 should have understood:
- He was forgiven
- He did not owe the debt, it was paid.
- He should have humbled himself to accept the forgiveness of the king.
Slave #1 should have realized:
- The reaction of the king would be harsh.
- That he would be humbled by the king to accept the gift or die in prison.
- That others would not approve of his actions toward Slave#2
Slave #1 should have:
- Listed the offenses of Slave #2
- Promising to repay the $20 and failing to keep the promise.
Listed the offenses of the king.
- Punishing me for things I had no control over.
- Being to strict in punishing me for my actions toward Slave#2.
- Expecting to much from me.
- Refusing to understand my point of view.
Listed his offenses toward others.
- Proud, self-sufficient attitude toward the king.
- Ungrateful for the gift of $20 million.
- Bitterness and resentment toward Slave#2 for not paying his debt.
Cautions To Observe
It is important to distinguish between the real offenses and the "excuse offense." The "excuse offense" is not the real offense for which one harbors bitterness. Identifying the real problem is the most difficult. It requires that we be honest and accept responsibility for our attitudes. It does little good to ask forgiveness for some "excuse offense" when in reality the offense is only a small part of a much greater offense.
There are several ways to ask forgiveness which are guaranteed to keep bitterness alive in our lives.
- "I was wrong, but so were you."
- If I was wrong, please forgive me."
- I guess I'm sorry for all the things I did against you."
There is one sure way to resolve the problem, "God has convicted me of how wrong I have been in (whatever the offense). I know I have wronged you in this, and I've come to ask, will you forgive me?
If there is to be victory in our lives we must understand the greatness of the Atonement. It's relationship in our live, and the lives of those we touch is vital to a victorious Christian life.
Jesus told his listeners, unless they forgave from the heart they would not be forgiven by the Father. The Scripture shows the difference between the debt we owe to God which is staggering, and the debt other may owe to us, in comparison is immeasurable. Nothing men can do to us can compare with what we have done to God, and what we continue to do, day by day.
Yet, God forgives us the great debt we owe Him. So how can we be unforgiving to others who owe us so little in comparison? Anything that we may need to forgive is only a shadow of the debt you have been forgiven. When you realize God' forgiveness, then ask the question, "Why must I forgive?" The answer that will rise from you soul is, "Forgive? Yes. Seventy times seven.
One should not claim to be a Christian if they have an unforgiving spirit. Individuals who have resolved to keep others in the Prision of Bitterness are the same as Slave #1 and will be judged by the King--Jesus Christ.