In St. Matthew 18:21, “Peter came to Jesus and said, Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus answered, I say not until seven times: but seven times seven.”
There are people walking around with “unforgiveness” in their heart because of something that was said or done to cause them injury. They have purposed in their heart that they will not forgive the person, or people, for what they have done to them. It could be a marriage partner, an estranged parent who abandoned them, a murderer who took a loved one or a friend or loved one that said some harsh words. They can only see the injury that was done, but I must say that withholding forgiveness takes on a life of its own.
It tears at the heart strings and believe it or not, affects our mental and physical health. The injury is all we think about and it lays stress on the heart. It keeps tension built up in our bodies which can have a negative affect on our blood pressure, cause us to have headaches, and effect our quality of life. When an individual chooses to be angry and hold on to injury, they themselves become a victim.
“Unforgiveness” shackles two sets of people: the one who withheld forgiveness and the one to whom forgiveness is not extended. The wake-up call is that the person who harbors and withholds forgiveness and is living with it is not living — they are just existing. They have no real life in them for it has consumed them.
Perhaps this column speaks to someone today. If so, the remedy and cure can be found in St. Matthew 18:23-35. In this parable Jesus tells of a certain king who showed compassion on a servant but became angry when that servant did not return the favor for a friend.
The servant had been stealing funds from the king. The case was hopeless except for one thing — the king was a man of compassion. He took the loss and forgave the servant. This meant that the man was free and he and his family were not thrown in prison. The servant did not deserve this forgiveness. It was purely an act of mercy on the king’s part. But the same servant went out and found a fellow servant that owed him a whole lot less than that. He mistreated his friend and demanded that payment be made. And when his friend could not pay he had him thrown in prison (verse 30). When others saw what he did they went and told the king. Upon hearing this the king called him in and said “I forgave you all your debt, because you asked me to. Should you not have shown that same compassion on your fellow servant? The king was angry and had him thrown in prison.”
Jesus said, “So likewise shall my heavenly do also to you, if you from your hearts do not forgive everyone their trespasses.” My friends, when we pray and ask God for forgiveness, we expect him to do so, and he does. So, if he forgive us, then he expects for us to forgive each other. It may not always be easy, and it may take lots of prayer, but with the help of God it can be done. Let’s set somebody free and let’s set ourselves free.
There’s power in forgiveness.
The Rev. George T. Ellis is pastor of Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church.