How Do You Know If You Have Forgiven?

by Adam Becker

The  world can be a cruel place  sometimes and people can be at the heart of  it.  We all have been  wronged and hurt by others.  We all have had  opportunity to need to  forgive.  The Bible is a great place to read  about forgiveness and it is clear on forgiveness, we need to forgive.  But how  and what does forgiveness look like?

The  best example of the foundation of forgiveness is actually found in a  story in the Bible. The Bible says;  Matthew 18:23-35 (NIV) 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 talents 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   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   denarii. 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 you 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 greatly distressed 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 turned 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 from your heart.

Forgiving a Debt

In   the story the man owed a very large debt a debt he could never repay.   Even though he owed that debt the man was forgiven. The king had the   power to punish him but instead wiped the debt clean.  The man was   forgiven for so much but then we see he could not forgive someone for  so  little.  The king saw this man’s un-forgiveness and chose to revoke  his  pardon. 

This story gives  us a lot to chew on.  It is  obvious that the king is the Lord and we  are the first debtor. What is  hard to imagine is how God can just  revoke the forgiveness of our sins  like that.  I can’t give you a solid  answer on that and don’t want to  for theological reasons but if Christ  said it then it must have some  merit.  God forgives freely, by just  accepting His sons atonement and  sacrifice on the cross you are  forgiven. 

If you  look at the  story it kind of gives you a clue of what forgiveness looks  like. The  man wanted to be repaid; he felt something was owed to him.   The debt  demanded restitution.  A clue that you have forgiven is that  you wish  no repayment or restitution.  Yes, true forgiveness has to do  with  letting the debt go. Wanting repayment or restitution can come in  many  forms. Wanting them to get theirs is a form of repayment.  Even  wanting  God to judge them and saying things like “vengeance is mine  saith the  Lord” or “that’s between you and God” are all indications that  you are  looking for repayment.  The repayment may collected by God but  it is  still collection of the debt a debt that was already paid for by   Christ. Slandering the person to others in order to hurt them is also   seeking restitution.  And bitterness can likewise be a form of   repayment.

Forgiving All

There  are  schools of thought that teach that we are to forgive only those  who ask  for it and are sorry.  I can only say something doesn’t feel  right about  that.  The Bible doesn’t tell us to forgive only if people  are truly  sorry; there are some verses about if they repent but I don’t  want to  take that risk.  We need to forgive whether they are sorry or  not.  When  they crucified Christ they did not say they were sorry yet  Jesus cried  out;

Luke 23:34 (NIV) Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

It   can be hard to forgive when the person is not sorry or feels they have   done no wrong but we must do it anyway.  I am sure there are sins that   we don’t even know we have committed yet our slate is wiped clean.   Wipe  clean the slate of the offender no matter what their attitude is.   You  don’t have to like what they did and you don’t have to trust them  but  let it go.  Pardon their wrong doing and seek no restitution,  harbor no  bitterness especially if it’s a spouse.  Also know that God  loves that  person and He can change them, there is hope. I watched Him  work in my  life and my wife’s life, It may take a while but don’t  forget God is a  miracle worker.  It may not be easy but few things in  life are. 

Forgiveness  is work  we can’t hold on to and dwell on a debt or wrong that was done  to us  especially in a marriage. When you are offended or wronged don’t  dwell  on it and don’t give the devil a foot hold.

Dealing with offense and forgiveness is like dealing with temptation;

The   Bible talks about temptation also and it lays out a spiritual truth,  it says in James 1:14-15 NKJV But each one is tempted when, by his  own  evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed, then, after desire has   conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives   birth to death.  

An Ongoing Process

Forgiveness   is an ongoing process, just like temptation that offense will keep   coming back over and over.  Just when you think it is gone it may pop   its ugly head out again.   With temptation you can’t be tempted by   something you don’t have a desire for or appetite for.   Then after you   desire it and think on it you become dragged away and enticed by it.    After you let it drag you away it conceives and gives birth to sin.    Well that can be the same with forgiveness.  An offense that you don’t   have feelings or hurts about will not drag you away.  You have to  still  have some pretty significant wounds for it to do that.  Then  after the  wound is there thoughts will come.  If you entertain those  thoughts they  will drag you away and you will give birth to wanting  repayment all  over again.  Forgiveness is not an instant thing.   Whenever there is a  wound or hurt it will want to keep coming up in  your mind but you must  cut it short so it can’t drag you away.  Don t  get to that point, the  minute it comes up let it go, rebuke the  thought.  I had to do that over  and over in my marriage and in my life.   It is so natural to want  revenge and to be repaid, even to want  justice.  But the truth is if we  all received do justice no one would  be alive, we are all worthy of the  death penalty for the wrongs we have  done.  I sure don’t want to get  mine or have what comes around go  around so why should I wish it on  others. 

You  must also remember to  that the person who  has wronged you is human  and you are human.  People are prone to error  and making mistakes, they  are prone to do things that are selfish with   no regard for others.   Human nature will always be a tempter to mankind  and sometimes will  win just as it has won in your life.  Face the fact  that you have made a  lot of mistakes in your life and yet the Lord has  forgiven you.  Just  as He has forgiven you you will need to forgive  others.  Know that  people are going to let you down, you could hold  un-forgiveness towards  that person and even get revenge but guess what  someone else is going  to come along and let you down again.  In your  lifetime you will have  many encounters with people in which they will  hurt you in some way.   If you don’t choose forgiveness and see people  for what they are which  is human you will have a very unhappy life and a  long list of enemies.   Humans make mistakes don’t hold it against them.

Chose to forgive and clothe yourself in love 

Forgiveness  doesn’t always mean trusting them but  it does mean not holding it  against them in order to hurt them, chose  to forgive!  One of the key  indicators that you have forgiven is not  wishing that they receive  repayment or punishment for what they did to  you, according to that  have you forgiven?  If you are holding  un-forgiveness let it go, there  is still time to change things. There is  hope in any situation no wound  is so great as to be un-forgiven, if  everyone received punishment for  all the wrong they did then everyone in  the world would be dead.  And  most importantly ask for Gods  help in forgiving someone.  Ask the Lord  to take away the hurt and fill  it with love.  Forgiveness is a process  and takes work, stay on top of  your hurts and don’t let them carry you  away. 

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