"If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are to be feared" Psalm 130:3-4

Releasing or controlling?
Someone who can forgive has power.

The act of forgiveness is powerful, it unlocks something, sets people free and releases them. Someone who can forgive is held in awe, reverence and is ‘feared’.

The Message says: "Forgiveness is your habit, that's why you're worshipped".

The Psalmist knows that forgiveness is powerful and therefore he is willing to wait and put his hope in the Lord. He waits knowing that God's forgiveness is completely liberating.

But we can associate forgiveness with control and manipulation. A controlling fear that holds us bound until we fulfill certain requirements - when we have paid the debt to the person we wronged then, and only then, will they let us off. That is not forgiveness but is manipulative. It means there is a wrong hold over our lives which is not liberating but holds us in bondage.

Forgiveness brings redemption

Psalm 130:7 God's forgiveness brings full redemption. Generous redemption. True forgiveness comes from a heart of love to release and no longer hold someone in bondage. True forgiveness comes out of love.

When we forgive we will also see full redemption; we, too find freedom.

Forgive as you have been forgiven
Colossians 3:13 "Forgive as the Lord forgave you"

Matthew 6:14-15 "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Of course God has forgiven us! But if we can't forgive others then part of our heart is closed. If part of our heart is closed then we question the Father's ability to totally forgive us. We see it as manipulative and controlling rather than being releasing. As we forgive then our hearts become open and we can receive and experience the Father’s forgiveness.

God is all about family
The Trinity is a family system made up of a Father, a Son, and a Spirit. While the title ‘Creator’ describes what God does, ‘Father’ is who He is.

Ephesians 3:14-15  For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
John 14:1-3 In My Father’s house are many rooms.

God’s plan for us was that we should live in an environment of perfect love. Not being able to experience pain or rejection. Our mothers: love, nurture, comfort and gentleness. Our fathers: name, identity, our place in the world, protection and provision. We were made to love and to be loved.

Isaiah 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, I will comfort you.
Psalm 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion

But the fall changed everything. Hurting parents can only pass onto their children what they themselves have received.

Martin Luther
“I have difficulty praying the Lord’s Prayer because whenever I say ‘Our Father’, I think of my own father who was hard, unyielding and relentless. I cannot help but think of God in that way”.

Forgiveness from the heart
Matthew 18:21-35
Jesus’ response to Peter’s question - how often should I forgive?

In this story look at yourself as the king rather than the servant.

The King has had something taken from him and there was no way it could ever be repaid. It was an impossible task even for the servant to think about repaying the debt.

But before the king could cancel the debt he had to know how much had been taken, he counted the cost and then wrote it off. He could only cancel it once he knew what it was costing him.

In the same way, we have to know what has been taken (stolen) from us. We can only forgive when we see what has been lost; if something is stolen and you can’t identify it then you can’t forgive for that particular thing.

Cancel the debt - no chance of repayment, let it go, no control or manipulation. That debt no longer belongs to you, it is written out of your ledger, no longer exists. (If something comes back in the future then that is a complete bonus.)

Forgiving like this brings freedom and “full redemption”.

At the end of the story Jesus talks about forgiving from the heart. When we forgive from the heart it is complete and allows our hearts to enter a greater level of freedom.

With the Father’s help we need to draw up a list of the things that have been stolen from us. We can then face them and with his grace we can begin to cancel them. Quite often these things will involve our parents and the way we have been treated. But it is not limited to parents - it could be brothers or sisters, friends, teachers, colleagues, bosses even leaders in the church. It may mean facing painful things and letting them surface in order that they can be cancelled and to enable God to heal our heart.

Forgiveness is a process - we forgive as we are able at that particular time. If the issue surfaces again then we may need to forgive again.

Jack Winter quote
“Bitterness is a poison pill that we swallow thinking it will kill someone else.”

As long as we have unforgiveness in our heart, we have an unhealthy connection with the person who hurt us. The only way that we can be free from this is to cancel the debt completely and forgive from our heart.