Forgiveness is NOT an emotion

Forgiveness is not an emotion. It is a decision.

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

–Luke 11: 4

Jesus, when He taught His disciples to pray, He made it clear that we are to forgive others for their wrongs against us, and that we must do so from the heart, or we will not be forgiven for our sins (Matthew 6: 15). Yet many of us, when faced with situations in which we have been wronged, hurt, betrayed, and abused, we have considerable difficulty with forgiveness. The sad truth is that the majority of people tend to view forgiveness from an emotional standpoint, and so because they may continue to feel the hurt, they are rendered unable to forgive.

Forgiveness is not an emotion.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23: 34)

When Jesus forgave those who had tortured Him and nailed Him to the cross, He wasn’t done suffering. There remained hours of agony before death. Yet knowing that He would continue to suffer, He forgave them, because forgiveness is not about feelings– it is a decision to cease to hold the transgressor guilty of and liable for hs wrongdoing. Furthermore, we know that the soldiers who had crucified Jesus weren’t done with Him when He forgave them, because immediately afterward they stole his clothing and gambled to see who would get his coat (Matthew 27:35).

The pain may continue after your decide to forgive.

It is in fact this tendency of people to hurt us repeatedly that can lead to a state of unforgiveness if we do not learn to assert authority over our emotions. Unforgiveness isn’t just when we didn’t forgive the person in the first place. It is also when we have forgiven the person, but because of the continued hurt, repeated offenses, or other reasons we re-live it and in our hearts undo the forgiveness we had previously granted. This can easily cloud our discernment, cause our faith to waver because of the focus on circumstance, hinder spiritual gifts from full manifestation, and adversely affect our ability to make sound decisions both in our leadership and our personal lives.

As leaders, we will often be the targets of demonic attack, slander, ridicule, hurtful words, witchcraft, and even murder. While the people who may be involved in the various attacks against us may indeed have the very worst of motives, many of them will not truly know the extent of their sin against God. The Roman soldiers did not know that Jesus was the son of God when they crucified Him, and those who seek your heart may not know who you are in God. There will, however, also be people who do know exactly what they are doing.  There are three kinds of ignorant people: those who just don’t know, those who don’t want to know, and those who know but don’t care. As a leader you will certainly encounter all three. We must be prepared to genuinely forgive whether people know better or not. We must also be prepared for the possibility that some time may pass before we recover from the harm that has been done, or before God restores that which was taken from us, and we must trust Him through it all. f we have this perspective, not only is it easier to forgive, but it becomes harder for the enemy to use the continuing hurt or offenses to cause us to withdraw our forgiveness, and we will become unstoppable intercessors and leaders of unshakeable faith.

Points for Discussion:

  1. Take inventory of offenses that have been committed against you, and make certain that you have forgiven all parties concerned. It may be quite helpful to do so regularly.
  2. Study Matthew 18: 15-17, and 21-35 closely and prepare a brief teaching on it.