The power that lies in forgiveness and in unforgiveness is immense. It is also something that is universal to the human experience. Because we live in a world that is fallen and sin abounds, all of us in some form or another have to go through periods of needing to forgive and needing to be forgiven.
As I have gone through this week and have looked at forgiveness as an area that is essential to spiritual formation, I have had to take a hard look at my own life and the times I have needed to forgive and the times that I have needed to ask for forgiveness. I was reminded how powerful both are. By holding on to unforgiveness, I think that I am holding power over the one I need to forgive, but in reality, it is the opposite. When I hold onto my forgiveness to someone who has wringed me, I keep that wrong alive – it still has power. When I forgive, then I let it go. It no longer has a presence or a power over me. The earthly consequences of that sin my still be with me, but the spiritual and emotional power are released.
The same is true when I am forgiven. When someone holds back their forgiveness form me, then I cannot embark on restitution of the sin. I am always in debt to the person as long as they hold back their forgiveness. As I grow in my faith, I learn that I need to let go of these things and let the people who cannot forgive me stagnate in their own stew of resentment. If I have made an effort to seek true forgiveness in all humility and if I have sought to provide restitution for my wrong, then that is all I can do. But when a Christian holds back forgiveness to the unbeliever or the less mature believer, then much harm is done as the sin kept alive.
This came to life for me when I had a text session back and forth with a young man whom I am mentoring in the faith. We were talking about whom and what we worship. All humans worship something. It is either the living God who is creator of everything, or it is an idol. The young man told me he has a tough time giving everything to God because he is afraid that he is going to let God down. When we got together for our face to face talk, we reviewed the Samaritan woman in John 4. She was a woman who needed to be forgiven for much and she needed to forgive much. Because she was shamed into coming out in the middle part of the day – the hottest part of the day – to do hard manual labor, she was laden with shame due to her sin and her being the victim of sin. It was only when Jesus offered her the true water – that is Himself and His forgiveness – that she went to the town and talked to people. Because of Jesus, she left her same at the well and needed to bring this to others.
“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NLT) Emphasis mine.
Unforgiveness will lose its power ultimately when we take the action of giving our live to Jesus (“those that drink”) and allow Him to work through us (“spring within them”). And the response that we have once we have experienced this forgiveness:
“The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So, the people came streaming from the village to see him.” John 4:28-30 (NLT)
Once we have experienced forgiveness, then we want to go out and share that with others.
“Father God, you are the one who is the source of all forgiveness. Only through you can I release my stubborn unforgiveness and let your Holy spirit heal me. May I always be an agent of forgiveness and be humble enough to seek forgiveness when I have wronged others and, more importantly, wronged you. Thank you Lord that through your son Jesus you always forgive. You are the God of another chance. In the name of Jesus my Lord and Savior.”