I travel a lot for work…I used to tour as a professional bass player, and now I’m a pastor and get to speak all over the country. So I’m driving and boarding planes a lot of the time. I’ve learned all the tips and tricks at this point to get me through airport security as fast as possible because you can’t actually travel if you’re held up in the security line!
It’s gotten me thinking lately – every new experience we enter into requires freedom. It seems like a no-brainer, right? You can’t enter into something you’re not free to enter into. But think about how this applies to how we love other people…We can’t enter into loving someone if we’re not living in freedom.
That doesn’t sound too hard…until you realize that unforgiveness is the opposite of freedom. So when we’re refusing to forgive someone, it hinders us from loving either that person or other people.
Why is that? Because when we refuse to forgive someone, we’re withholding from them the same generosity God extended to us.
You see, forgiveness is more important than we realize. It’s an underestimated part of being human. Forgiveness is both acknowledging that we live in a broken world (and that people act out of that brokenness) as well as acknowledging that reconciliation always has a cost. You see, forgiveness is necessary where intimacy has been severed. This severing is part of a world that’s in disrepair. Simply put, in order to bring back together that which is severed, it will always cost something to repair the breach.
When we live in unforgiveness, we’re saying a few things about God too…We’re revealing we don’t trust God to heal our hearts. We don’t trust God to vindicate our reputations. We don’t believe that God is working all things together for our good and his glory.
But God doesn’t condemn us for any of it. In God’s reality, anything is possible. When you choose to forgive, you make the choice to willingly pay the debt that is owed to restore that which is severed. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it’s a decision of the will.Forgiveness is not a feeling, it’s a decision of the will. Click To Tweet
To forgive is not to ask the other person to pay the debt. It is choosing to pay it yourself for the betterment of a relationship, regardless of the cost. This is why the finished work of Jesus, through his death and resurrection, is so absolutely paradigm shattering. God chose to pay an infinite debt through a person of infinite worth to restore relationship with those who are infinitely undeserving. This is also why the grace of God in Jesus is essential for us to have even a minuscule understanding of what forgiveness is.
Forgiveness sets our hearts free to begin to love again. When we forgive, we free our hearts to love a person again. We create an opportunity for restoration. Now, I do want to say for the record – forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same things. Sometimes, for our own safety, we can’t reconcile (restore a relationship) with everyone in our lives. In those cases, forgiveness is an action we take in our own hearts whether we ever see the person who harmed us again or not.
As Jesus forgave us an infinite debt, it becomes part of our life in Him to forgive others even enormous debts. Why? Because God’s forgiveness is greater, and His forgiveness directs our dealings with others. Our feelings are ours, but He directs our actions. God has forgiven us in Christ and so we also need to forgive people. Once our debt is paid and our relationship with God is restored, only then can we love again. And love is the very essence of who God is.
It all starts when we really know God’s love for us. When we understand what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, we are freed up to forgive and love others. As we forgive others, love will flow from the heart of God, through us and to another who has wronged us. As Jesus said, who the Son sets free is free indeed!