WHY WE MUST FORGIVE
(By: Norm Rasmussen)
The opposite of peace is conflict -- war. With conflict comes anger. Unresolved anger opens up legal doors for demonic spirits to enter the protective shield God places about a believer. Once inside our defensive perimeter, these demonic spirits can inflict greater harm to the believer unless they are driven back outside one's protective perimeter.
Never forget this: Forgiveness is for OUR benefit. It is for OUR good. God would never tells us to forgive if it wasn't good for us.
Choosing to forgive doesn't mean that the wrong never happened. It just means you refuse to allow it to control your life anymore.
Truthfully - the greatest weapon God has given believers to deal with anger against those who hurt us, or do us wrong, is the weapon of forgiveness. Forgiving those who hurt us slams the legal door against demonic forces that would otherwise have legal right to enter our defense zone and bring even greater harm to us.
Therefore, it is WISDOM to forgive those who hurt us! GREAT wisdom!
(This is NOT implying that we have to LIKE those who have hurt us. Forgiving someone and liking someone does not mean the same thing. More on this later).
Nowhere in the Bible does God make it any plainer than in Ephesians 4:26-27 that if we don't deal quickly with those who hurt us, we give the devil a legal foothold in our life:
Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. (NKJV)
The Living Bible paraphrase translation reads:
If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry, get over it quickly; for when you are angry you give a mighty foothold to the devil.
How do we not nurse our grudge against the one who has hurt us, or continues to keep hurting us? God tells us the first thing we are to do is to forgive them, in Ephesians 4:31-32, only a few verses later:
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. (NKJV)
The Living Bible paraphrase translation reads:
Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.
The NIV Translation reads:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.
God tells followers of Jesus Christ to forgive those who do them wrong. It is so very important for us to understand why.
'For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.' (Matthew 6:14-15).
When a person first reads this, it can almost be offensive to some. It makes God seem almost like a cruel, coldhearted, insensitive, uncaring God. (It sure did to me when I first was confronted with it). I personally believe it is written in the scripture in such a way as to force us to put aside any wiggling room to deceive ourselves that holding onto destructive pain that others have caused us is okay, and that we really don't need to forgive that person, or we forgave that person once a long time ago, so there is no need to do it more than once, if that person continues to keep hurting us.
The GREATEST reason God instructs Christians to forgive those who wrong them is for their OWN good. Holding onto unforgiveness (manifested by anger, anguish, bitterness, resentment, vindictiveness, slander, and the like literally allows the devil to put a CURSE (give the devil an opportunity) upon us in one way or another. (Matthew 5:21-26)
I repeat: Forgiveness is first and foremost for OUR good - the Christian believer's good, not necessarily for the one we are forgiving. We must NEVER lose sight of this vitally important truth.
Let's look at another Bible passage where God warns us that when we hold anger, resentment or bitterness against someone (which includes God) or a local church, or an institution, or even ourselves . . . holding unforgiveness . . . we give Satan a potential advantage over us. In 2 Cor. 2:10-11 (NKJV), the Apostle Paul is addressing the church at Corinth over a matter of forgiveness. (For the sake of making the point, I won't bother addressing why he was doing this, because I believe God wants us looking at the "principle" and/or the "wisdom" and "importance" of forgiving for this particular writing). Paul writes:
Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sake in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Operating in perpetual forgiveness demonstrates our willingness to walk in wisdom and love. Forgiving those who harm or offend us is executing wisdom and love on our part. It is waging effective spiritual warfare, as Ephesians 6:10-18 instructs, exhorts, and warns us to do.
Operating in perpetual forgiveness places a legal hedge of protection around a believer that makes it very difficult for the devil to penetrate. (See: Psalm 91:11-12).
[Note: Were you aware that all unconfessed sin gives the devil a legal right to affect our peace and joy with God, not to mention potentially affect our faith and trust in God and His Word? Holding onto unconfessed sin of any kind is very, very unwise].
Holding onto unforgiveness (which is sin), gives demons legal right to inflict you with greater joylessness, greater pain, one way or another. Unresolved pain from people who have hurt you can bring all kinds of emotional problems, both mental as well as physical. Unresolved pain literally has taken people to the grave before their time. It has placed people in mental institutions to waste their entire lives away.
Is God telling us to LIKE that person who has harmed us, or is harming us? There's no place in scripture where He tells us to LIKE the person. We're to love them, and God's definition of loving someone is not necessarily 'liking' them. Liking someone has to do with our feelings. Loving someone means you are willing to forgive them for the wrongs they commit against you, the very thing God forgives us for when we sin against Him and others. Nevertheless, it is true that when we forgive our enemies, our feelings are often tempered somewhat toward them. (Forgiving your spouse, parent, or child can restore feelings of affection almost instantly much of the time!)
Along with forgiving those who hurt us, God has provided a couple more weapons to use against those we are angry at. They are: Prayer and Kindness. They are found in Matthew 5:44:
'But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.'
What kind of prayer are we to pray for our enemies? First, that they submit to the truth of the Cross, if they are not spiritually born again. We are to pray for their eternal salvation. Secondly, we are to pray that God will deliver them of any evil motivating them to attack us, to hurt us, and hurt others. There may be other things the Holy Spirit would have us to pray about regarding them, so each individual case needs to be taken to God to seek His counsel regarding the matter. And ... be patient with God.
Some people have a difficult time believing that anger and unforgiveness almost always go hand in hand. God gives us another vitally important clue in Mark 11:25 of just how devastating and detrimental holding anger against someone can be. Holding anger against someone can literally STOP our prayer lives from being very effective!
Starting in Mark 11:24, quoting from the Living Bible paraphrase, Jesus is telling his disciples what prayer can accomplish:
'Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you have it, it's yours! But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too.'
God has made it perfectly clear to us that if we do not forgive others who have hurt us, or are hurting us, He won't forgive us, though we ask and trust Him to. Furthermore, if we are frustrated in our prayer life, burying past hurt (unforgiveness) without confessing it ... it may be the reason why so many of one's prayers are not getting answered. That's heavy duty!
'For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.' (Matthew 6:14-15)
To the wise, forgiving those who hurt us is NEVER an option. It's absolutely MANDATORY, for a vibrant, exciting relationship with God!
And a demon will quickly whisper in your ear: 'And you must LIKE your enemies as well, and allow them walk over you like a doormat! You must always turn the other cheek, remember?'
This is where we must be very careful. God doesn't command us to 'like' our enemies, or allow them to bring even great harm to us, especially physical harm, when we are innocent in the matter. But God DOES tell us to LOVE them. Love is an act of our will, a decision we make. Simply: Love forgives. It is trusting God to judge and deal with the guilty party instead of making ourselves the judge, in His time and ways, not ours. Like is a feeling -- an emotion, and a deceiving counterfeit to Godly LOVE. Satan constantly tries to deceive us into believing his lies that we are to "like" our enemies (and we're just being hypocritical to God if we don't).
If we were to "like" the worst of our evil enemies, God would have told us to like Satan and his demon assistants. You can take it one step further even. Nowhere in the Bible are we to love Satan and the demons either. Believers are not to forgive demonic powers for the evil that they do. Because they have already been judged, they are not to be forgiven. God does not forgive them, which is why believers are not to forgive them.
[Important Note: If you are in an abusive situation, like a wife who is being physically beaten by a husband or boyfriend, or a child who is being sexually molested or physically beaten all the time, God does not expect you to remain in that abusive environment if something can be done about it. Go to governmental authorities about your abuse situation and let others give counsel in what might be best in the situation. Forgiveness is not a license to let others keep abusing someone in severe abuse situations].
You'll never find recorded in the Bible Jesus 'liking' the Pharisees and the Sadducee's, his primary religious enemies during His time on earth. Yet you will find Him loving them. Love forgives -- Like doesn't. What PROOF does scripture give us that He loved them? When he was dying on the cross, He prayed this prayer for His enemies, the flesh and blood earthly enemies responsible for putting Him on the Cross (Again Note: He doesn't pray for any demons that are motivating His flesh and blood enemies to hang Him on the cross, however. Let this be reinforced: God never implies that we are to pray for Satan or his demon helpers):
'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' (Luke 23:34)
We are to LOVE our enemies, not expected to necessarily LIKE them. Love is an act of our will, a decision we make. Love toward our enemies is ONLY demonstrated when we do what Jesus did; we ask the Father to forgive them for hurting us, and we ask and trust God how we're to deal with that person as the future unfolds.
On a little different note . . . have you ever wondered what might have happened if Jesus had NOT forgiven His enemies who put Him on the cross just prior to dying? Have you ever considered the possibility that Jesus could have actually SINNED one time in His life prior to dying, thereby disqualifying Himself as the 'spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world?' Remember, if Jesus had sinned just one time, He would NOT have been the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and the New Covenant would never have gone into effect. There would be no true Church, no one would truly be saved by the shed blood of God, and God would prove to be something less than holy and righteous and actually an unloving hypocrite, asking believers to do something that even He would not do. God never asks believers to do something He Himself is not willing to do, and has already done from the foundation of the world.
Secondly, God demonstrated something of His nature to us when Jesus spoke out loud on the cross: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' (Luke 23:34) Here's the evidence that He never asks you and I to forgive our earthly enemies while holding onto unforgiveness Himself.
There is another misunderstanding about forgiveness that the devil will take advantage of if we're not careful. Forgiving someone does not mean you'll forget the wrong you were done. Over time you might forget, but most likely, you won't forget completely, while here on this planet. Forgiveness removes the sting of pain but not usually the memory. Only God has the ability to forgive and forget. Nevertheless, the bitterness toward the one who wronged you usually will lesson greatly as time goes on, after you have forgiven them. God will see to it.
So remember, 'forgive and forget' is a myth! Forgiveness is an act that changes us from prisoners of the past to liberated people at peace with our memories. It is not forgetfulness, but it involves accepting the promise that the future can be more than dwelling on memories of past injury.
Here is another reason why we MUST forgive those who hurt us. It forces us to deal with our selfishness and pride. When we refuse to forgive those who hurt us, no matter how much pain and devastation it has caused us (and perhaps others), it is saying to God and the spirit realm that we demand our right to be JUDGE. It is communicating that we demand our right to be GOD ourselves! Satan demanded the right to be equal with God (which really was communicating to God that He literally wanted to replace God), and when we refuse to forgive someone who has hurt us, it communicates to God that we want to be just like Satan wanted to be, to replace God on His throne so WE can be God on our own little throne! That's a heavy-duty no-no! Look where it got Satan and one third of the fallen angels. Forever banished from the presence and blessings of God, that's where it got them!
God will purposely allow you and I to be hurt and offended by another to test our willingness to forgive. We will never gain victory over our flesh in the 'forgiveness' department if we aren't put in a position to make a decision to forgive someone or not forgive someone.
Expect to be hurt and offended by others from time to time. You most likely are being tested. 'Ouch!'
Operating in perpetual forgiveness fulfills the greatest two commandments of God, which are: (Matthew 22:37-39).
1) To love God with all our heart, mind, body and soul.
2) Love our neighbor (others) as we love ourselves.
Why must we continually keep forgiving when we keep getting hurt by the same person? Because forgiving someone one time does not necessarily keep the door closed to the devil. Wounds can fester. The pain of the offense can keep coming back to us like the temptation of a crippling addiction. To minimize the effectiveness of the temptation to become angry again for the one who wronged us, or keeps wronging us, forgiveness needs to become a common weapon used when someone continues to keep hurting us.
Now does it make more sense to you when Jesus told Peter this:
Then Peter came to Him and said, '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 NKJV)
A prisoner in Kansas wrote this letter:
'An issue that I have been reading a lot about recently is forgiveness. I realize the importance of forgiveness in my relationship with the Lord.
To me it is not so much the willingness to forgive, it is the inaccessibility of those I need to ask forgiveness from. Does God understand if I am not able to see that person face to face or talk to them over the phone to ask their forgiveness? I have hurt a lot of people for which I was incarcerated for and which I am now going through treatment. I would love to ask for their forgiveness for all the pain I have put them through.
I have prayed and received forgiveness for myself, but there is still a piece missing that I wrestle with. I believe the enemy may also be playing a part in this by getting me to feel guilty and be ashamed of what I have done.'
Let's address this brother's question above. It is a common issue/question with many of the incarcerated brothers and sisters in Christ: Do we satisfy God's command to forgive others we have hurt when we can't apologize to them in any way due to inaccessibility, when we have told God we are sorry for what we did, asking His forgiveness? The answer is absolutely: YES!
Yes, we are to communicate with the person we have hurt if we can, if we can . . . and tell them we are sorry for the wrong we have done to them. As the Holy Spirit leads, we should ask if they will forgive us as well. If they refuse to forgive, that is between them and God. But we are free in God when we tell them and God we are genuinely sorry for the hurt we have caused them. We slam the legal door in Satan's face immediately once we have done that. That is what God tells us to do, for our spiritual health.
What if that person has died, which is often the case? Tell God you are sorry for the hurt you caused that person while they were alive, and ask God to communicate that message to that person in the spirit realm. God will. And God will give you peace in your soul afterwards when you do. And ... that only needs to be done one time. The devil will have you doing it over and over if you let him trick you into doing so. Don't let him.
Notice in the Lord's Prayer, or what many consider to be the guidelines for praying daily, that Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:12:
It says: 'And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.'
What God wants us doing to keep us healthy spiritually is to search our minds frequently 'literally daily' staying in touch on a never-ending-basis with the Holy Spirit about forgiving others who hurt us. When we have the slightest nudging from the Holy Spirit that we need to forgive someone who hurt us, what can be wrong with telling the Lord, out loud, that you forgive that person for hurting you? Nothing can possibly be wrong with that, and in fact, that is exactly what God is trying to communicate to us in the Model Prayer Jesus gives in Matthew 6:9-15.
SO THE KEY IS: Talk to God out loud so that the devil can HEAR you forgive others. You can't go wrong doing so. God knows when you forgive someone silently, but that does not necessarily slam the door instantly in Satan's face completely regarding unforgiveness. What DOES slam the door instantly in his face regarding unforgiveness is as soon as you forgive that person who has hurt you and the demons assigned to you HEARS it, God slams the door for us so the devil loses his foothold inside the perimeter surrounding us, at least regarding an unforgiveness issue.
Be aware of the devil's tactics in the area of 'feelings' when you have satisfied God's demands in forgiving someone. Demons will constantly stimulate your soul realm with 'feelings.' Like sexual fantasies you may dream about with partners from the past, demons will seek to give you dreams of being hurt by people who have hurt you in the past, and you may have feelings of anger toward that person after waking up. Don't let the devil trick you into believing the lie that 'you never truly forgave that person.'
The devil will play with your feelings forever if you allow him to deceive you with this tactic. God is first and foremost a 'legal' God, secondly a 'feeling' God. In respect to waging effective spiritual warfare against the devil, if you let the devil manipulate you through your feelings, you'll be one of the most joyless Christians you'll ever meet. Seriously.
Finally ... when we forgive our enemies and choose to love them, God promises to reward us for it! Do any of us want to be unwise and lose out on rewards from God when they are available to us? No!
In Luke 6:27-35 Jesus says:
"But this I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.
"And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
"And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.
"But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil."
In summary, forgiving those who hurt us is great wisdom. We demonstrate the nature and character of God when we do. We also wage more effective spiritual warfare as well. In battle, you need protective footwear. Wear 'forgiveness combat boots' manufactured by the Heavenly Gospel of Peace Enterprises, a "spiritual subsidiary" of The Kingdom Of God.
(Part 3 of this teaching can be accessed by clicking on the following link: PEACE - Don't Live Without It!
Click on the following link to return to: Why The Need For The Armor Of God?
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