The Apostle Peter is someone in the Bible that everyone can relate to. Whether it’s his “ready, fire, aim” mentality or the things that he says that sometimes gets him into awkward circumstances, everyone has been there. There are times though that Peter really wants to know what the Lord would have him to do and how to do it. In Matthew chapter 18, verses 21-35, Jesus teaches Peter a lesson about forgiveness. Peter knew that He should forgive, but he did not know the limits and he did not know how to forgive.
From verses 23 to 35, Jesus tells a story about a servant who owes his master a large debt. The master forgave his large debt but when that servant met a fellow- servant who owed him much less, he demanded that the servant pay the debt. When the master of both servants heard of his unforgiving servant, the Bible says in verse 34, “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” Jesus ends the story by saying, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
This is a fascinating story, and from it we can learn some helpful principles.
1. Forgiveness is an act of my will.
Often times we feel that forgiveness is a feeling. The Bible does not teach that it is a feeling. Forgiveness is determining to do the right thing. If someone treats me inappropriately, whether it is a willful act or unintentional, I have a choice to be hurt and forgive, or be bitter and seek revenge. Forgiveness is my willingness to be hurt and a determination to do right by the person that has hurt me. I have often heard people say I just want to forgive and forget, but I can’t forget what they did to me. My response is, if you could forget you wouldn’t have to forgive. There have been times in my life that people have said very unkind things about me and about my family. Each time that happens, it hurts. I have learned each time that happens to get alone with God and out loud say, “Lord I love you, and I want you to know that I forgive that person for what they have done.” Forgiveness has nothing to do with feelings. Forgiveness is an act of your will. You must determine to treat the offending party right, no matter how he or she responds to you.
2. Forgiveness comes through surrender to God.
It is clear from this story that bitterness is sin. I must go to the Lord and confess to God that I have been bitter. This is difficult because we really believe that we have a right to be angry with someone who mistreats us. The Devil is on our side, convincing us it is okay for us be bitter, especially if someone was a real jerk. Let me give you a simple prayer that you can pray in surrender to God.
Just say, “I realize, God, that bitterness is sin. I realize that You have forgiven me. I confess to You my bitterness and I want You to know that I forgive that person.”
Now go ahead, think about that person that you’re upset with and pray that prayer to the God that forgives you and God will hear your prayer. Forgiveness comes through surrendering to God. When you come to God confessing your bitterness to God as sin, He will soothe your broken heart.