The forgiveness we receive when we put our trust wholly in Jesus is a forgiveness that brings us freedom.
By Boyd Bailey
It’s freedom from paying our unpayable sin debt, but it’s so much more than that.
We receive freedom from the devil’s control. Freedom from evil’s allure. Freedom from hell. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from lying, cheating, and stealing. The freedom of clarity when the fog of faulty thinking is lifted. Freedom to forgive ourselves and freedom to forgive others. God’s forgiveness allows us to walk out of the jail cell that is our pride into the freedom to forgive others. Christ forgives me, so I am free to forgive myself and other people.
In Matthew 18, Jesus describes two men in debt. The first debtor owed multiple lifetimes-worth of salary to the king. He couldn’t possibly pay his debt, and was about to be sold (along with his wife and children) into slavery. But he begged for mercy, and the king forgave the whole debt!
The second debtor, who was the slave of the first debtor, owed 100 days wages. In a move that is both stunning and ironic, the first debtor went straight from the forgiveness of the king to the throat of his servant, choking him and and demanding,
“Pay what you owe.”
– Matthew 18:28
He threw the man into prison for a debt that was incredibly small in comparison to the massive amount he had just been forgiven. He failed to show even an ounce of the mercy the king had just shown him. And, confined behind bars, the second debtor couldn’t have paid, even if he’d wanted to.
How was this unforgiving creditor so callous after having received such a magnanimous gift?
Doesn’t really matter how. The fact that he’d accepted forgiveness and then turned around and shown the exact opposite was more than the king, who found out, could take. “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” Again, the answer to the question didn’t matter. It was already too late. Jesus doesn’t mention this king offering another chance to this unforgiving one after so heinous a sin. The one who failed to forgive received exactly the penalty he had ordered for his own servant. Prison forever.
After Jesus relates this parable, he says some chilling words:
“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
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
– Ephesians 4:32
The parable puts Paul’s words here into perspective. “Be kind and compassionate…” doesn’t sound like strong words, until you lay the command alongside this parable about failure to forgive.
Having experienced the surpassing grace of God in our lives through Christ’s forgiveness, our gratitude must grow us in kindness and compassion. Indeed, gratitude greases the skids of kindness and compassion, so forgiveness easily flows from our soul. Something is very wrong in a heart when this fails to happen.
Like a christened cruise ship slides steadily toward the water on lubricated rails, so our new life in Christ moves our soul forward to forgiveness on the grace-covered rails of kindness and compassion. Forgiveness incubates in a heart of gratitude, but it dies in the heart of a man who doesn’t realize how much he’s been forgiven.
Deep in the heart of a merciful Christian is a recognition of who she would be without Christ. Flowing from the heart of a grateful Christian is a natural forgiveness, even in surprisingly difficult circumstances. There is a reason King David asked God, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” The “joy of salvation” is the feeling that accompanies recognition of the heavy burden of debt from which we have been totally freed. That feeling, and that recognition, make it so much easier to forgive.
Does gratitude mark your attitude, or do you take God’s grace for granted?
God be priased! His forgiveness is a cycle of freedom. The freedom we find in forgiveness is the freedom to love others, to forgive more easily, which health both hearts and relationships and allows us to breeze past the negative and move on with the relationship.
By grace, through our faith in Jesus, our Heavenly Father forgives us. We joyfully receive his forgiveness with gratitude. Then we offer kindness, compassion, and mercy to ourselves and others. Some who experience our ongoing forgivingness will seek forgiveness from God too.
This cycle of freedom in forgiveness perpetuates through families and friendships and can spread across nations. We are free indeed to forgive whenever needed.
Who needs your abundant kindness and compassion? Who might never know ongoing mercy and forgiveness if you don’t offer it? And if you don’t offer it, is it possible that person will have missed an opportunity to know Jesus?
Release those who offend you from your mental and emotional prisons. Both of you will be set free to enjoy the fruits of forgiveness: peace, joy, laughter, smiles, affection, intimacy, security and fulfillment. In Christ, we have freedom in forgiveness!
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
– Galatians 5:1
I pray our Heavenly Father increases your understanding of your own salvation, so that, by grace, you can use the freedom you have been given to set others free too.