If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
Satan likes to tempt us to blame other people for our problems. When we do that, it blinds us to our own need for forgiveness. But there are times when other people do wrong us, and they are responsible for the hurt we are experiencing.
The fact is, you cannot control what other people choose to do to you, but you can control your response to those offenses. When somebody wrongs you, you have two choices. You can hold on tightly to that offense, turning it over and over in your mind and your heart until it metastasizes into a tumor of bitterness. Or you can let go of the offense and the offender, so that you are free to get on with your life. That is what the word “forget” actually means–it means “to release, to let go.”
I remember reading once about the way Africans catch monkeys in the jungle. They place peanuts inside a hollowed-out coconut and then tie the coconut to a tree. A monkey sniffs out the food, reaches its little arm into the coconut, and grabs hold of those peanuts. But when the monkey tightens its fist around the peanuts, it is then unable to extract its hand from the coconut. If the monkey would simply let go of the peanuts, it would be able to free its hand from the coconut. But because the monkey refuses to let go of those peanuts, it becomes entrapped. What a great picture of what happens to us when we fail to forgive!
There are a lot of reasons you ought to forgive people who wrong you. There is a spiritual reason, which Jesus stated clearly in Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” If you have been forgiven by God, you have an obligation to forgive other people. That is a great motivation to forgive. But there is also a practical reason for forgiving: Why in the world would you want to keep holding on to that person who has already hurt you so much? Why would you want to be enslaved to your offender? You see, the only way we ever experience freedom is by letting go of that person and what they have done to us. Lewis Smedes said it best: “When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner we set free is us.”
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Satan’s Four Favorite Lies” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Lewis B. Smedes, “The Art Of Forgiving” (New York: Ballantine, 1997), 178.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.