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Forgiveness Sets You Free

Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

Are you holding unforgiveness in your heart towards your spouse or any other family member? Are you harboring bitterness and anger towards anyone? Jesus is quite clear that we are to be generous in our forgiveness of those who have offended us; forgiveness without limit.

…and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…” Matthew 6:12

Do you mean this when you pray the Lord’s Prayer? Have you ever thought about what this request means? If we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, withholding mercy from the one who has offended us, we are asking God to withhold His mercy from us. We are called to be loving and merciful to others, just as God is loving and merciful to us in our sins.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36

Interestingly, when we hold bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness in our hearts, we are in spiritual bondage. Fr. Jacques Philippe, a renowned French priest, author, and spiritual director, has this to say about unforgiveness…

I truly believe in the power of hope. Forgiveness is an act of hope because what we hope for, with faith, God will grant. Hope never disappoints. Furthermore, when we forgive someone, we set that person free of revenge or judgment. But it’s not only the other person we set free; it’s also ourselves. Every time that I forgive somebody, I set myself free. [1]

Unforgiveness holds two people in bondage, both you and the one who has offended you. Fr. Philippe goes on to explain the ill effects of unforgiveness on our hearts…

What happens when we don’t forgive? If someone did something wrong to me ten years ago, and I still don’t want to forgive them ten years later, it means I am held prisoner by my past. I am not free to receive the graces of today…we can’t receive the graces of the present moment, all the blessings God wants to give us. We can’t receive them because we are attached to our past by this refusal of forgiveness.

What does it mean not to forgive? It means that I’m holding a grudge, a judgment, sometimes a hatred in my heart. And this poisons my heart. My heart is not pure; it is not free…it keeps me in a condition of dependence.

Unforgiveness poisons our hearts. It blocks the graces that God wants to bestow on us in the present moment. Fr. Philippe continues…

On the contrary, when I forgive, I am free. I am no longer in a state of dependence. I can be completely myself, and I can allow the grace of God to dwell in me…forgiveness sets me free.

The Bible is clear that God will hold us accountable in the same way that we hold others accountable. As God’s children, we are called to forgiveness and reconciliation in our relationships.

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:37-38

You can bestow no greater gift on someone than the gift of forgiveness. When you hold bitterness in your heart towards another, you hurt yourself the most. You miss God’s blessings when you harbor ill towards another person.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

As Christ died to forgive our sins, we daily need to die to self so that we in turn may forgive those who have offended us. True blessings are in store when we extend forgiveness and love to those that do not deserve such mercy. In forgiving, we set ourselves and the one who has offended us free from bondage. Fr. Philippe stated that forgiveness is an act of hope, hope that God will forgive us for our hardened heart and the one who hurt us.

I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. Hosea 14:4

Forgive the one who has offended you and love them freely. Let go of all bitterness and anger towards them. God will bless you both as you walk in the path of righteousness and a heart free of bitterness, resentment, and anger. Show mercy and you will receive mercy. Peace is the fruit of forgiving others.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

[1] Fr. Jacques Philippe quote, Real Mercy: Mary, Forgiveness, and Trust, Marie Masterson, Tr., (New York: Scepter Publishers, 2016).