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“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes

The Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor in Matthew 18: 21-35 is just like us holding onto our unforgiveness after being forgiven and saved by Jesus.  

Jesus tells the story …  

A king took pity on his servant and pardoned the servant’s debt of 10,000 bags of gold. Instead of the servant paying forward the forgiveness for a much lesser debt, he had his debtor thrown in jail over 100 silver coins. When the king heard the news, he had the servant, the one he pardoned, thrown in jail. 

In Matthew 6:15 NIV, a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus already warned, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

That verse comes soon after the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 when Jesus told the people, “This, then, is how you should pray.”

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

In Matthew alone and in that one prayer that says “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” we have all the evidence we need about forgiveness and Jesus’ expectations of us. 

However, I don’t think any of us is prepared to forgive on our own, but when we show we’re willing, Jesus shows up. 

If you won’t or can’t forgive, at least think about giving one of these activities a try. What can it hurt anymore than it hurts us to hold onto the hurt, right? 

These suggestions came from a sermon, a workshop, and a book about forgiveness. I’ve practiced all three and confirm they work when we’re willing. 

  • Go to the person and say, “Please help me understand …”

One of our church’s four core values is to Forgive. If we can’t drop the offense quickly without explanation, we go to the person who hurt us and ask them to help us understand why they did what they did. We don’t blame them or attack their character or accuse them of doing a wrong thing. We ask them to tell their side of the story and we try to understand.    

  • Do this forgiveness activity suggested by Lysa TerKeurst’s counselor. Lysa is the founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries and author of Forgiving What You Can’t Forget.  

Because I’m a doer, this suggestion from an online forgiveness workshop offered by Lysa worked really well for me to really forgive. Her counselor suggested she write on index cards every single thing she could think of that she hadn’t forgiven. Lay them around a room. Either place a piece of red felt on top or, do like I did, and paint over each one with red paint. And say, “I forgive (the person’s name) for (the thing they did that hurt you) and whatever my feelings will not allow for, the blood of Jesus will surely cover.”

Relying on Jesus as backup isn’t an excuse to hold onto some of the hurt. It’s the opposite. Including Him in the activity keeps us from making excuses that we’re not ready to forgive yet. We may never be ready, but if we’ll begin and let Jesus in on it, we won’t feel so inadequate and frustrated.  

  • Pray this simple prayer for help.  

Anytime a painful memory comes up, I pray this prayer. It’s from chapter 13 in The Bait of Satan, “Escaping The Trap.” It reminds me how much I need Jesus to help me let go and live like Him.

I can’t ever remember praying a more powerful prayer. I tear up a little every time I say it, and I feel a little more healed. I added to it the word “unforgiveness.”

“God, please help me get out of this hurt and offense and unforgiveness. It is too much for me to handle.”

Remember, forgiveness isn’t a suggestion and Heaven’s worth it. 

I’d love to hear any ideas that helped you forgive and move on. I appreciate so much that you’re reading along and commenting. 

In This Together, 

I have something for you!


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