In the most recent episode of the Everyday Jesus podcast, we started our new series on the Spiritual Gifts. In the episode, we gave an overview of the gifts, what they are and why they were given. If you haven’t listened to that episode, please catch up by clicking play on the player below:
For us to properly use the gifts that God has given us, we must take the time to remove anything that might hinder us from using those gifts. One of the biggest things that hinders Christians from being used by God is unforgiveness. As a Christian, we must walk in forgiveness. I would dare to say this is one of our primary callings. Let’s look at a parable to understand the importance of this issue.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 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?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Many Christians come to Christ in this way. They have a salvation experience. They feel the freedom of having their sins lifted from them. The blood of Christ washes away every stain. Yet, just like the servant in the story above, they refuse to forgive others. When you refuse to forgive others, you lock them in a prison. They may not realize they are in a prison, but they are in there, none-the-less.
Forgiveness is the opening of that prison. Look at the servant in this story. He had been forgiven much, but he couldn’t find it in his heart to forgive another servant just a little. No grace, no mercy, no patience.
If you are expecting to use your gifts to do great things for God, but you continue to harbor unforgiveness in your heart, then you are asking for God to withhold forgiveness to you. Look at the sobering last line of this parable – “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” This should give us pause.
God places such a high value on forgiveness because of the price He had to pay to issue it. Our sins were as red a scarlet, now they are as white as snow, because of the price Jesus paid on the cross.
Recently, I was faced with a situation in which I had caused a brother some grief. It wasn’t my intention. I was giving him some advice and my tone and manner was abrasive. So much so, that I had offended my brother. When I realized what I had done, I reached out to this brother and asked for his forgiveness. He was quick to forgive and we carried on as brothers with no issues. That situation could have gone in a number of directions. My brother could have withheld forgiveness and put me in a “prison” for my sins. I could have carried on not realizing that my actions were offending my brother. I could have just ignored it and not asked for forgiveness. Godly actions are a result of God working on our character.
Let’s look a few ways that we can open the prison of unforgiveness:
- We have to admit to the problem. One of the first conversations I have with someone I’m counseling who has issues with forgiveness is the issue of control. You are responsible for what you can control. You cannot control the other person. You cannot control how the respond. You cannot control what they do. But you can control what you do and how you respond. Christians must instigate forgiveness and not be offended when the other person doesn’t reciprocate. You cannot control whether the offended party will accept the apology or not. That’s between them and God.
- We must accept responsibility. You have to admit that you contributed to the problem. Accept responsibility for what you did. That’s the way of the cross. Responsibility means that if you need to make amends. That’s the difference between “being sorry” and true forgiveness. We don’t make excuses.
- It must be intentional. Taking ownership over the problem and accepting responsibility cannot be forced. It must be intentional on your part. You cannot wait for the offended party to search you out. You must intentionally follow this through. This is a heart issue. Be quick to seek out forgiveness and be quick to forgive. Intentional people don’t wait for it to happen, they make it happen.
The Holy Spirit renews our hearts and minds when we are saved. This means we have to think in a new way and it means our emotions should respond in new ways. Our carnal nature is programmed to respond with unforgiveness. You did me wrong, you deserve this prison. But once we are saved, we have been given a new heart. That means our responses must change. This is not natural. We have to work at it, but forgiveness is worth working towards.
If you are holding your brother or sister in unforgiveness, then it doesn’t matter if you are the most gifted individual on the planet. It doesn’t mean anything, because you don’t have love. As the Apostle Paul says, “If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.”
Love God. Forgive others.