Repeat

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land…

So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are running away from us as they did before.’ So when we flee from them, you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand.

Joshua 8:1, 3-7

If you’ve been defeated or damaged in one area of your life, God’s strategy for healing is often to allow you to enter into an identical replication of the scenario that was hurtful. For Israel, they were defeated by Ai the first time because of their own sin. Now that the sin was dealt with, God’s strategy for their victory was to have the second attack look identical to the first.

Joshua will advance against the city, then when the armies of Ai come out to meet them, they will flee just as they did the first time. Only this time, Israel has an ambush waiting west of the city. When the men of Ai pursue part of Israel’s army, the other part will sweep into the unprotected city and the Lord will give them the victory.

God often sets us up with identical scenarios as a way to bring freedom and healing to our hearts. If we hold on to unforgiveness, judgment, and bitterness toward those who have hurt us, we should expect to find ourselves cycling through situations over and over again that resemble the situation that was so hurtful. Forgiveness and releasing judgment is the only way to break the cycle.

For example, if your father hurt you by being domineering and angry, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in job situations where your male boss is that way. If you are a woman, don’t be surprised if you marry someone that eventually starts acting that way. And if you’re a man, don’t be surprised if you have moments where you notice that you’re just like your dad.

Or, if your mother hurt you by being manipulative and controlling, don’t be surprised if friendships are damaged later in life because of control and manipulation. If you are a man, don’t be surprised if you notice similarities between your wife and your mother. And if you’re a woman, don’t be surprised if you have moments where you noticed that you’re acting just like your mom.

The point is that the enemy wants these cycles to continue as a way to perpetuate the hurt and damage. But God allows these cycles to continue until you get your heart healed through forgiveness and by releasing the judgments that you’ve made against the person who hurt you. This biblical principle is a combination of (1) the measure we use being used against us and (2) reaping what we sow.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37-38

When we judge people who’ve sinned against us, we don’t allow God to be the Just Judge. And so, in many ways, we are the one trying to punish the person through our resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness. And unless we release that and forgive, the measure we have been using against them will be used against us.

If we measure with grace and forgiveness, that’s what we’ll receive. The cycle will be broken. But if we measure with judgment and resentment, we’ll find ourselves caught in cycle that we can’t seem to get out of. The apostle Paul references this cycle this way:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 

Galatians 6:7-9

If we sow forgiveness, we’ll reap a life of grace. If we sow bitterness, judgment and unforgiveness, we should expect to encounter the situation that hurt us over and over again in different people and in different spheres of our life.

Jesus died on the cross to take all of the consequences of sowing sin upon Himself. But we must apply the forgiveness He’s given us to the people who’ve sinned against us. We must abandon the role of judge and jury, handing out judgment to those who’ve hurt us, and instead let Jesus be our Just Judge and theirs.

When we do this, we ambush the hurtful scenario with love, grace and forgiveness. This is how the Lord heals our hearts and brings us victory. We don’t have to live in these perpetual cycles. What Jesus did on the cross is more than sufficient to break these patterns in our life.

Is there an area of your life where you are reaping the consequences of your own judgments against people? Is there a cycle that keeps repeating itself, especially in regard to cycles you saw in your family growing up? It might be time to ambush that cycle with forgiveness and grace, releasing the judgment and receiving God’s grace. You were meant to live in freedom!

Here is a prayer you can pray to get free:

Father, forgive me for the judgments that I’ve made against ____________. In the name of Jesus, I now release the following judgments that I made against _________.  (List the judgements that you made).  I choose to forgive as I have been forgiven. I now choose to forgive _____________. I break the curses that have been released against me as a result of my judging. I bring the power of the Cross to bear upon these bitter root judgments that I have made. I pray that their power will be broken today in my life. I cancel the effect of sowing and reaping judgement in my life. I choose now to measure by grace and have grace return to me, in Jesus’s name. Amen!

The Fog of Unforgiveness

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

1 John 2:9-11

John reveals here the bad fruit of living in unforgiveness. Unforgiveness leads to resentment, and resentment to bitterness. Bitterness creates a breeding ground for hate. This is why living a lifestyle of forgiveness is absolutely essential for those who follow Jesus.

We forgive because we have been forgiven. When someone hurts us, there is a relational indebtedness that occurs. There is a feeling that they “owe” us. Forgiveness is choosing not to hold onto that debt. It is not saying that what they did was okay. Just the opposite. Forgiveness is saying that what they did was not okay and yet, because we’ve been forgiven, we will release the debt and cancel the indebtedness. Jesus taught us this in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35.

From this parable we learn that Jesus has forgiven us way more than what He is asking us to forgive. The debt that has been canceled for us is way more than the debt we are canceling for others. We also learn that living in unforgiveness leads to our life being tormented by the enemy. John is echoing that reality here in this passage of 1 John.

Unforgiveness, which eventually turns into hate, causes us to walk around in darkness. We lose the ability to see reality clearly. Everything gets filtered through the dark lenses of hate, bitterness, and resentment. When we live in unforgiveness, we lose our ability to dream about our future because we are stuck in the past. The chains of hate are shackling our life to the person who hurt us, and we find ourselves unable to move forward. Forgiveness is the only thing that will break that chain.

I wonder how many people who say, “I don’t know where I am going in life,” don’t need to “find themselves” but instead need to forgive someone who hurt them. They wander and meander in life and can’t figure out why. Maybe John is telling us one possible reason. Maybe they don’t know where they are going because the darkness has blinded them. Maybe darkness has been given permission to invade their sight because they were unwilling to forgive and the fog of hate clouds their future.

Perfectly Just Judge

For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[Deut. 32:35] and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[Deut. 32:36] It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:30-31

This is such good news! Without this truth, forgiveness would be nearly impossible. We forgive others because we ourselves have been forgiven. Our debt with God has been canceled and that empowers us to cancel the relational debt that was incurred when that person hurt us. Forgiveness is not saying that what they did was okay. It is saying that we will no longer take it upon ourselves to bring revenge.

By forgiving, we hand the person over to God and allow Him to be the one to bring justice. This passage in Hebrews, which quotes two passages from Deuteronomy, reminds us that we can trust God to bring justice. We can trust Him to be our righteous and just Judge.

This truth bring us freedom. We no longer have to hold the grudge or hang on to the resentment. These things only poison us and never really bring justice. Forgiveness releases us from the emotional attachments that keep us bound to the one who hurt us.

So long as we live in unforgiveness and bitterness toward the person who hurt us, we stand in-between God’s justice and that person. We block God from dealing with that person because we are still trying to be the one to deal with them. Forgiveness is us stepping to the side and giving up the right to bring our own form of justice.

Sometimes God’s justice is allowing the person to reap what they’ve sown. Sometimes God’s justice is opening their eyes to see what they’ve done. Sometimes God’s justice is to allow the person to be on the receiving end of the same hurt they’ve dished out. Sometimes God’s justice is saving the person from any and all harm. God’s kindness and grace leads them to repentance as they come to realize the weight of their sin that’s been forgiven.

God has an unlimited number of ways to bring His perfect justice. It likely won’t look like the revenge that our sinful heart desires, but we can trust Him completely with it just as we trusted Him to deal with our own sin and the justice we deserved.

God is not like Santa Clause. Jesus is our ultimate image of God. God is perfectly loving and perfectly just. These two parts of His nature are never separated from one another and are never in conflict. He is a holy, righteous, and awesome God. He is worthy of holy reverence and worship. Forgiving those who’ve hurt us is one way we stop trying to be God, and we let God be God.