Whenever I talk about forgiveness, I feel it’s important to first point out the biblical difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. This is important because many people unwisely allow themselves to keep getting abused by unhealthy people because they feel that’s what it means to forgive. But that’s not biblical forgiveness.
Forgiveness is about releasing hatred in your heart towards someone. It’s about releasing this person of the debt they owe you. It’s about letting go of bitterness and replacing it with love. Reconciliation, however, is when a relationship is restored to what it was before the offense took place. You don’t have to reconcile with someone to forgive them. God always calls us to forgive, but he only calls us to reconcile when possible and when doing so would not bring further damage to your own heart in an unwise way (Proverbs 4:23).
With that said, here are 3 signs God is saying, “Forgive them and be free of it!”
1. If Your Closeness with God Has Been Negatively Affected By a Wound from Another, This Is a Sign God Is Saying “Forgive Them and Be Free!”
One of the worst types of bondage is the self-inflicted type. Why? Because our natural inclination is to wait for someone else to come and help us. But when we are our own captors, the keys to the jail are clenched in our own fists. If we don’t choose to open our hands and unlock our cell door, we will sit in that prison forever.
One reason our fists stay clenched around the key to the jailhouse door is because of unforgiveness. We get hurt by someone else and thus we feel like someone else needs to come and set us free. This lingering hurt will then make you wonder, “Why aren’t you healing me God?” But really God has already placed the key to your freedom in your hand. Through forgiveness we could be free from the wounds caused by others. As Jesus said in Luke 6:37-38, which states:
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
These verses are not advocating for a works theology where we earn our forgiveness by first forgiving others. Rather, the Bible consistently teaches us that our belief in God will be manifested in our behavior towards people. When you truly have received God’s forgiveness and grace, his character will then flow through you, causing you to act in the same ways that he acts. This is why just before Luke 6:37-38 in Luke 6:35-36 Jesus said:
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Japanese children look like their Japanese parents. Indian children look like their Indian parents. Italian children look like their Italian parents. Likewise, God’s true children will always bear his image. As 1 John 3:10 states, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
The point is, if you want to experience the freedom you have because you are a child of God through Jesus Christ, you must follow your Father and allow the works of Jesus to manifest through you. If you want to remain close to God, you have to go where God goes, and our God goes out and offers forgiveness (Daniel 9:9).
2. If You Do Not Feel Experiential Awe and Wonder in Christ, God Could Be Saying, “Forgive Them and Be Free!”
As Christians we know we are supposed to be rejoicing in Christ always (Philippians 4:4). We are supposed to have an undying gratitude that we can feel in our bones because of all that Jesus has done for us. We are supposed to be filled with the Spirit and overflowing because of it. But so often we don’t feel this awe and wonder in an experiential way. Why is that?
Some people believe it’s because of a lack of faith in God’s miracles. Some people are so eager to experience God that they feel pressured to speak in tongues on command, proclaim physical healings over the crippled, and seek out visible signs and wonders from God. But I would argue there is a greater miracle just waiting to happen right in front of all of us. This miracle can be experienced by all Christians in a visible, powerful, and experiential way that even unbelievers will not be able to deny seeing done through us. This miracle is the miracle of offering grace – something that we can never do in our own power.
So many of us lack awe and wonder about God because so few of us have tapped into the power of God to produce the miracle of forgiveness in our hearts. Forgiveness makes no sense from a human standpoint. Everyone should get what they deserve in a just society. The world looks at forgiveness as just another form of weakness.
But anyone who has ever tried to forgive someone who has really hurt them knows forgiveness requires a level of strength that no human can possess on their own. Only through the miracle of the gospel can we give to others what they don’t deserve from us. As Philippians 2:13 explains, “. . . for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
If you want to experience awe and wonder, if you want to experience a miracle from God, if you want the world to see how great our Lord truly is – then you must choose to forgive whoever has hurt you.
3. If You Know You Are Grieving the Holy Spirit By Not Forgiving Someone, This Is a Sign God Is Saying, “Forgive Them and Be Free of It!”
The Father plans what should happen. The Son accomplishes the Father’s plan. But then the Holy Spirit applies what the Son has accomplished. In other words, the gifts of God are given to us because of Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. So we must be careful not to grieve the Spirit if we want to experience the gifts of God. As Ephesians 4:30-32 states:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
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