Christian Relationships – Forgiveness and Inner Healing
Jesus clearly taught us to forgive all who have offended us, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
This forgiveness needs to be unconditional and unending just as is our heavenly Father’s forgiveness. This is required of us because, as disciples, we have already experienced forgiveness for everything we have done, without exception (Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:22).
Not only did Jesus teach us to forgive, but He extended forgiveness while He was still in pain on the cross. When He was being nailed on the Cross, He pleaded with the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him—those whose hearts refused to receive the Gospel that He preached, those who refused to let God’s Kingdom reign in their hearts. This includes the entire human race for we all were found to be guilty with hardened hearts.
Even in the midst of the worst pain and suffering that He endured under the hands of wicked people, Jesus chose to pray for them so that God would forgive them. He showed His kindness, mercy, and love for them and for us.
If Jesus forgave all those who crucified Him, extended His forgiveness to all of us, and commanded us to be channels of His forgiveness, what right do we have not to forgive those who hurt us?
In Matthew 18:21-35, Peter asked Jesus how many times to extend forgiveness to someone who hurts us. He asked, “Up to seven times?” Jesus responded with a parable of two slaves who both owed money. The first owed a large amount of debt to the king, and the second owed a much smaller debt to the first slave. When the first slave begged for mercy, the king forgave the entire debt, leaving the slave owing nothing. However, when the second slave begged for mercy, the first slave did not forgive the debt but had the slave thrown into prison. When this became known to the king, the first slave was rebuked, sent to prison, and tortured. In this passage, Jesus expressed the seriousness of forgiveness— those who do not forgive others will suffer for it. This suffering refers to all of the side effects—relational, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual—that come from holding on to bitterness and anger instead of forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24). That is why Jesus commanded us to make forgiveness a part of our daily life so that we would not experience these effects.
Forgiveness of self
Forgiveness is being obedient to Jesus’ instruction to “love your enemies.” In many cases, enemy number one is one’s self.
Self-forgiveness is essential to self-healing, and each time we forgive someone, our own sense of self-forgiveness and self-worth will grow; it is the true way to improve our own self-image.
Creative imagination makes all things possible in a forgiving state of mind. To the degree that we are healed, that same healing is made available to all those in our lives who have bound us in any way or that we have held in bondage—our parents, spouses, children, friends, everyone that our lives touch.
Forgiveness of others
The choice to forgive frees us and allows God to mend and restore our broken hearts.
Joseph was imprisoned for many years because of the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39). Now, imagine yourself in his shoes: falsely accused of sexual abuse, losing the reputation you had, losing your job, losing your position, being put in prison. Putting ourselves in Joseph’s shoes, we can imagine how it feels to have our friends, relatives, and all who know us gossiping because of something which is not true. It is painful, and stealing someone’s good name is a very serious sin before God (Exodus 20:16). Yet when we look from God’s perspective, God can restore our reputation as He did with Joseph. Keep in mind that whenever our reputation is stolen, God is the One who will bring the truth to light. We need to remember that God is the one who has the right to revenge, not us (Romans 12:19). Don’t fight for your reputation—leave that to God!
When time is taken away from us, due to unfair processes—just as they were for Joseph and for many Christians who were tortured and imprisoned for their faith—the only key to healing the wound left behind is forgiveness. Joseph is an impressive example of how he extended his forgiveness to his brothers who sold him to Egypt (Genesis 45:4-5; Genesis 50:15-21). No one can erase what happened in the past, but the future can be different because God has the power to heal a broken heart through what Jesus has done on the cross.
Holding onto pain and hurt, refusing to forgive those who wounded us, will block the healing power of the Holy Spirit in our inner being. Bitterness is a deadly poison that inhibits us from receiving God’s forgiveness and gives us over to torment. The only solution is to release those feelings that we have against others so that the Holy Spirit’s forgiving power can restore our souls.
It is very important to open ourselves and allow the Lord to heal our inner wounds as is described in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and … to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
It is very important to respond to Jesus’ calling to receive the inner healing that He has provided to us (Matthew 11:28-29). Let us release our heavy burden to Jesus, take His yoke which is easy, and learn from Him who has forgiven us and welcomed us to be children of God (Ephesians 4:32).
Is there any broken relationship that you are aware of that needs to be restored?
How quick are you to forgive yourself and others without holding a grudge?
How often do you reflect the forgiveness of God in your relationship with your parents, spouse, children, church family, and neighbors?
 Ruth Carter Stapleton, The Gift of Inner Healing, 1976.
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