It’s not an option; it’s something we gotta’ do. Forgiving is a crucial component of living successfully for Christ. Even the disciples wrestled with this one, but Jesus clearly instructed Peter to forgive others and, more specifically, to forgive them from the heart. Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven, (Matthew 18:21-22 NASB).
As He often did, Jesus explained His statement with a parable in which a slave owed a king an incomprehensible amount of money. (This symbolizes the staggering debt we owe God but cannot pay, except by the blood of Jesus.) The slave pleaded with his lord to have patience with him and not sell him and his family to pay the debt. The enslaved person’s lord had compassion for him and completely forgave his huge debt. And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt (Matthew 18:27). Once freed from his obligation, the slave mercilessly seized a fellow slave who owed him a pittance of the amount he had owed the king and began choking him, demanding the debt be paid. As the parable continues, the poor soul was thrown into prison until the measly debt could be paid.
Regarding the slave with the more significant debt, his lord released him and forgave the debt. Elsewhere in the scriptures, Luke 17:3-4 (Amplified version) records Jesus as saying, “Pay attention and always be on your guard [looking out for one another]. If your brother sins (misses the mark), solemnly tell him so and reprove him, and if he repents (feels sorry for having sinned), forgive him. And even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times and says, I repent [I am sorry], you must forgive him (give up resentment and consider the offense as recalled and annulled).”
For an offense to be recalled and annulled, it is brought into the light, voided, canceled, and declared invalid by the offended. The Greek word aphiemi, used here for the word forgive, means to let go or release. At the same time we aphiemi the offender, the other part of forgiving him is that we give up the resentment that can quickly build in our hearts toward the offender.
God cares about our hearts. In the parable described above, the lord of the slaves made a harsh judgment against the slave who had been forgiven the larger debt when he learned of his unreasonable treatment toward the slave owing the much smaller debt. "Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me.' Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?' "And his lord moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart" (Matthew 18:32-35).
Some offenses are easier to forgive than others. When an offense enters our hearts, the ground gets a little shakier, and the risk of releasing more difficult. Our only way to truly forgive and release from the heart is to allow the Holy Spirit to do those things through us. Christ in me can forgive the offenses that wound and crush the heart. It is not a matter of choosing to forgive and go merrily on our way because most of the time, when the heart is wounded or crushed, there is no merrily. There is pain and sadness. It requires supernatural healing and release that comes only as the Holy Spirit takes it from us. It’s like a two-part release: we release the offender and the offense and hurt to the Lord.
It’s easy to forget that God is the Judge of people because we like to jump in and judge people and situations ourselves. In Luke 6:37 (NKJV), we are commanded to "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Releasing one who offends us is releasing the offense and offender to the Lord. Then, and only then, are we released of the burden and set free to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Otherwise, we remain trapped by the evil done to us.
No one enjoys torment on any level, and when we do not release offenses and offenders to the Lord, joy and peace are vacuumed out of our hearts. It’s a kind of torment, and we bring it on ourselves. The burning sting of hurt stays in our hearts until we release it to the Lord. Think of the childhood game of Hot Potato--no one wanted to hold the hot potato (which, initially in the 1800s, was a lighted candle!), but quickly released it to another player. Don't allow the offense to remain trapped in your heart. Release it!
Learning the principle of releasing our offenders and offenses to the Lord assures us that His joy and peace can remain intact in our hearts, for the problem is no longer ours but His. Maybe that’s why Jesus tells us to forgive and release 70 x 7 times. He knows that He is fully able to forgive anyone, anywhere, anytime. He died for that, and He’s got our backs on this one when we release it to Him.
Ready? Forgive, and release. Forgive, and release. Forgive, and release. It’s powerful!
© 2022, Chris Werre