Freedom is one of my favorite words. Anytime I hear it or say it, I can’t help but imagine William Wallace from the movie Braveheart shouting out “FREEEEEDOM” with his last breath. I love that movie and everything William Wallace stands for. In fact, freedom is so important to me that I’ve written it down as one of my five core values. When I go to make a decision, one of the things I consider is whether or not I will feel free in the decision I’m making. For instance, when it came to job decisions in my life, I’ve always considered whether or not I would have freedom to do the things I want with my family, my talents and my time. I knew that I could not survive in a job that would steal my freedom.
Freedom is not something that’s just important to me, it’s important for all of us. How do I know? Because throughout Scripture we see that it is the passion of God, your loving heavenly Father, which gives you freedom. In John 8:36 it says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus paid a tremendous price for us to live in freedom.
Freedom is found in forgiveness. First, we are forgiven because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. We are free from the guilt and shame of our past; we are free for the condemnation of our sins in the past, present and future. This is one of the most incredible blessings that comes with putting our faith in Jesus and all that he has done for us on the cross. Second, we experience freedom as we forgive others.
The concept of forgiving others can create a lot of tension in our lives. After all, isn’t it true that the person who has hurt you and sinned against you probably doesn’t deserve your forgiveness? Or perhaps you feel like if you’re going to forgive them, they need to ask you for forgiveness. Consider for a moment a different perspective on forgiving others. Consider the perspective of Jesus on the cross. Those who crucified Jesus, those who mocked Him, those who caused mayhem and falsely accused him nailed him to the cross. None of them deserved Jesus’ forgiveness. In truth it was my sin that put Jesus on the cross and I know I don’t deserve his forgiveness. And yet, Jesus spoke these words from across “Father, forgive them…”(Luke 23:34) In that moment, Jesus is a living example for each of us about forgiveness.
More than a prayer more than a prophecy
When Jesus spoke those words “Father, forgive them…”, everything changed. Not only did he provide a way for us to have freedom from the guilt, the shame and the sin of our lives but he opened the door for us to live in freedom. For you see, un-forgiveness toward anyone affects us the most because it puts us in an emotional prison. Isn’t it true that the person who you’re struggling to forgive, because of the hurt and the pain that they caused, often doesn’t even realize that you’re suffering? Often they have gone on their way living their lives without a care in the world. The person that un-forgiveness affects the most is the one who is unwilling to forgive. Look at forgiveness from this perspective for a moment. Forgiveness always changes you. Take a moment to say that out loud and make it personal, “forgiveness always changes me”. Go back and read that again, let that sink into your heart and into your spirit.
How does forgiveness change you? By forgiving others you are set free. The person who has hurt you and sinned against you no longer dominates or dictates your life. How many moments and days are wasted struggling with the thought of what “they did to you”? That is not God’s plan for your life.
But they deserve it
As soon as you start down this road you may struggle in your thinking with the fact that “they don’t deserve to be forgiven”. And you’re right, they probably don’t. But then again do you? Do you deserve the forgiveness that Jesus offered for you on the cross? And before you go too far in answering that question let me offer and encourage you toward humility in this moment, because the answer is “no”, none of us deserve the incredible gift of forgiveness that Jesus gave us on the cross. The truth is, none of us will ever be asked to forgive another person more than what we have already been forgiven by God our loving heavenly father. In living out this was to forgive, you need to recognize that forgiveness is about your freedom.
Once you’ve gotten past the idea of whether or not somebody deserves your forgiveness and you see the truth that this is about you, this is for you and this is for your freedom there is still a lot to navigate. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, forgiveness does not mean that when a trust is broken in a relationship that the trust is automatically restored. Forgiveness means that you hold the offense against them no more. Once you have made that decision in your heart and in your life, there’s a lot to navigate. This is not something you do on your own. God your loving heavenly father is there wanting to give you power, strength and courage to do this. This is the point where we need to ask for wisdom and in the book of James, the author James writes, “anyone who lacks wisdom needs to ask the father who willingly gives us wisdom”.
Forgiveness is just the first step; it is a step that leads to freedom. Remember, “forgiveness always changes me…” Think about it today, who do you need to forgive? Ask God to help you to live in ” FREEEEEDOM “!