by DR Doug Mamvura
Any form of unforgiveness in your heart is a type of sin and we need to be quick to forgive.
Forgiveness means to pardon, to free or the release of debt. Forgiveness is not always easy. Some of us have been hurt so much and we have deep wounds which make it difficult to forgive. There can be a lot of pain and hurt associated with that particular incident that can make it difficult to forgive.
Indeed, the wound could be very deep. However, you will never get healed of that wound unless you forgive. The healing will start from the point you forgive. When we forgive, the healing of pain and hurts begins.
Most of the time when Jesus spoke about forgiveness, He referred to a debtor and creditor. It is like when somebody hurts you, they owe you something.
However, the onus is on you to release them or cancel out the debt. This is what forgiveness is about.
One of the examples of forgiveness, is found in Acts when we find Stephen forgiving people who were stoning him to death. He wasn’t being stoned to death for committing crime but for speaking the truth in love in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation. Stephen, saw Jesus standing up as he was being stoned.
This is the only verse I know in the New Testament which speaks about Jesus standing up. Most of the scriptures talk about Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father. It is possible that this single record of Jesus standing at the Father’s right hand was Jesus paying special honour to Stephen, His first martyr.
The last words Stephen spoke were “Lord don’t charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60). Stephen exhibited the same forgiveness and compassion toward his murderers that Jesus had toward His (Luke 23:34). This God-like quality of forgiveness is not confined to God alone; through Jesus indwelling the believers (Galatians 2:20), that same love can flow through each one of us.
Stephen was a man just like you and I and yet he forgave. He released the debt even in the midst of people stoning him. I know there could be things that have happened to you which are so terrible. Certainly, I have had a fair share of things happening to me which are extremely hurtful. However, if Stephen could forgive people who were stoning him to death, surely you and I have no reason not to forgive.
We need to learn to release people of debt. Furthermore, we need to release people to God and His righteous judgement. When I forgive somebody, I am not compromising morality nor am I compromising justice. What they did could have been immoral and injustice. When I forgive them, I give them to God who is the righteous judge.
There is a day of judgement. Everybody will stand before God. We have to believe in a just God. We have to believe that what goes around, comes around. Vengeance is never good for anyone. Vengeance and payback is a poison and we are not supposed to operate in vengeance. Unforgiveness says you hurt me and I am going to hurt you back equally if not more. God forbids this kind of behaviour. It is very unfortunate that some of us as Christians are still harbouring unforgiveness, malice and hurt. This will keep us in prison and is poisonous. It is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die. You will die because you will end up with high blood pressure and ulcers.
In Genesis 4: 9 -13, we find a story about Cain. God had warned Cain about what was in his heart. He knew Cain was jealous of his brother and envious of his brother. He ends up killing his brother Abel because of envy and jealous. God asked Cain, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on earth”.
However, despite the fact that Cain had murdered his brother, God put a mark on him and said “Whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold” (Genesis 4:15). This shows mercy on the part of God. He protected the first murderer on earth. Nevertheless, we should never forget that every behaviour has some consequences if we don’t make things right with God.
The Bible encourages us not to be vengeful. “Repay no one evil for evil. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17). We are to do good to those who do bad to us. We should never overcome evil with evil but overcome evil with good. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay”. Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him a drink”.
It is evident that this whole verse is saying that the Lord will fight for us. This reveals that the Lord takes what happens to His saints personally, just as he spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus. If we will leave vengeance to the Lord, He will deal with those who hurt us. If we take the matter into our own hands, then we only get what we can do. The Lord is much more capable of dealing with those who trouble us than we are.
Forgiveness shows and sows mercy. When you forgive you are showing and sowing mercy. When we sow mercy, we will reap mercy. The Bible says we “be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). God is good to everybody. He sends the rain to the just and unjust. We are most like God, when we forgive each other. So, when you pray and say I want to be Christlike, make sure that you have a forgiving heart.
“Who is God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He doesn’t retain His anger forever because He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18). God delights in mercy. This is awesome. We also need to delight in being merciful.
Forgiveness is limitless. “Things that cause people to be offended are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times they come back to you saying I repent, you must forgive them. The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17: 1-5).
It is very interesting to note that the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith after He spoke of forgiveness. They had observed all of the wonderful miracles of Jesus, and yet that had never inspired them to ask for greater faith.
Truly, walking in love and forgiveness with each other takes as much faith as any miracle we will ever believe for.
Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @dougmamvura