Lifestyle of Forgiveness

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22

We will all sin from time to time, but that does not mean we have to live a lifestyle of sin. A person may drink too much one night. That’s an action of sin. But when someone gets drunk night after night, that is a lifestyle of sin. When someone sleeps around, that is a lifestyle of sin. When someone intentionally and continuously embezzles money, that is a lifestyle of sin. It’s not a stumble or slip up, but instead a pattern of behavior that flows out of a heart that is unhealed.

This distinction is important because it is in the areas of chronic sin where the demonic is most likely to enter our lives. These are the areas where demons set up camp in our heart, mind, and body and begin to torment us. One of the most overlooked chronic sins in the Church is a lifestyle of unforgiveness. Jesus makes it clear that we are not just called to forgive a few times. As those who have been forgiven of all of our sin by the grace and mercy of God, we are to live a lifestyle of forgiveness.

To drive this point home, Jesus tells the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. A man who owed the king 10,000 bags of gold could not repay it, and yet the king forgave the entire debt. But when that man found a guy who owed him 100 silver coins, a much smaller debt than the one he was forgiven, the man refused to let it go. The man choked the guy and threw him in prison until the debt was repaid.

But when the king found about about this, the king brought the man in and said:

‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

Matthew 18:32-34

The man was shown mercy but didn’t show others mercy. The man was given total forgiveness but wasn’t willing to forgive his fellow servant. So the king enacted the biblical principle found in Luke 6:

“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

The man had the opportunity to measure with grace, mercy and forgiveness. Instead, the man measured with justice. Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. So the king measured him with the measure that he himself used. And justice demanded that the man be thrown into prison until he could repay the debt.

Another interesting plot twist in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant is that the jailers tortured the man. The lesson is clear. A lifestyle of unforgiveness leads to a tormented life. Unforgiveness becomes a super-highway for the demonic to set up camp in our life and bring all manner of torment to our hearts, minds, and bodies.

Chronic sin often leads to chronic problems. Chronic unforgiveness leads to chronic problems in our mental health, emotional well-being, physical health, and relational intimacy with others. Forgiving those who have hurt us is the quickest way to kick the enemy out of our life and restore flourishing to areas of our life that have been shut down for years.

Who do you need to forgive?

Pray this:
In the name of Jesus, I choose to forgive as I have been forgiven. I now choose to forgive _____________. I release any right I have retained to bring revenge. I release them from my hands and place them into Your hands, Jesus, my Just Judge. I break every curse I have sent to them and call forth a blessing to them instead. Thank you for the grace to forgive and the power to live in freedom. 

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.