When we are offended, when we feel an injustice has been done to us, no matter how large or small, we feel emotional pain.
It’s not imaginary. The pain is real.
How will we rid ourselves of the pain? Usually our thinking goes along this line, “If I can get that other person to ‘pay’ for what they did to me, I will feel better.”
So we wait for the payment. And wait … and wait.
And the pain deepens.
The longer there is no payment (whatever we decide that is), the deeper the pain.
The person who caused the pain may not even know it! Or, that individual might be intending to harm us and have no intention of offering “payment.”
Let’s say, though, they the transgressor is a good person who wants to make it up to you. How can they pay the debt? What kind of emotional currency is needed to erase the pain someone has caused?
An apology is a good start, but it cannot fully take away the pain. Here is the reality: If someone causes you emotional pain, they do not have enough to “pay you back” fully or erase that pain completely. Only God can heal us of our emotional pain.
So if we don’t want to live in emotional pain the rest of our lives, we have to allow God into the situation to heal us. The way we open the door for that to happen is through forgiveness.
When we make a decision to forgive and let go of the debt, God can begin the healing process.
If we don’t do this — we are stuck in pain to some degree — for the rest of our lives!
Here is a story Jesus told about how this works:
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (490 times!) Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:21-27)
The king represents God in the story and the servant represents us, who owe an impossibly large debt. Ten thousand talents would be millions and millions of dollars today. One Bible commentator said that it probably was more than the national revenue of Israel at that time, so Jesus was stressing exactly how un-payable the debt was.
Remember that the gap between the debt and the payment causes the injured person emotional pain. Does God feel emotional pain because of the sin and injustice we have committed against Him? Yes! We didn’t even know we had a debt to God, and most of us were not trying to make it right. We caused Him immense pain.
Even when we became aware of that debt, there was no way we could pay it because the gap is as big as the universe. Jesus said it was so large it was impossible to be repaid.
There would only be pain between us and God for all of eternity, EXCEPT that He forgave us our debt. Completely! He closed the gap, he took away the pain through Jesus bearing our sins and dying on the cross.
We are brought near by the blood of the cross. Now there is no more pain between us and God because of what was done by Christ. The un-payable debt has been paid and we get to go free, if we accept God’s payment for our sins. There is no greater news than that!
But Jesus didn’t stop there with His parable:
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:28-35)
Unbelievable as it may seem, Jesus goes on to tell about a person who has been graciously forgiven a crushing debt but was unwilling to forgive a tiny debt, in comparison, against his fellow man.
Jesus has read our mail. That is what we do! We have been forgiven a crushing, un-payable debt against God Almighty, and yet we hold on to the debts that other people incur against us.
It’s sobering to note that the person who refused to forgive the debt also ended up in prison — being tortured.
What is the answer? Even as God forgave us because of what Jesus did on the cross, so we must no longer look to the offending person to pay us back and heal our pain, but we must look to Jesus’ cross for the payment.
When Jesus died on the cross, he died for the sins of the whole world. His justice took care of my sins, but it also took care of the sins done against me by others.
That is the only payment that is enough.
When someone offends me or sins against me, the reason I can forgive 490 times, as Jesus said, is because they cannot pay the price for their indebtedness, but Jesus can! Jesus’ sacrifice covers 490 offenses committed by the same person each day. That’s why I am compelled to forgive; if I don’t, I am saying that His sacrifice wasn’t big enough to pay for that person’s sin.
If I don’t believe that Christ’s sacrifice covered their sin, then how can I believe it covers my sin either?
We have to stop trying to make people pay the debts they owe us spiritually and emotionally. They cannot do it.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to acknowledge when we offend others and try to make it right as best we can, but even if that happens, it really isn’t enough to cover another person’s emotional pain. Only God can do that, as we open to the door to forgiveness.
God has made a way for us to go free. It’s called forgiveness. We release them from their debts to us because Jesus has paid it for them.
You can make a decision right now to start the healing process in your heart if there is offense there and emotional pain. Jesus said if you stand praying and if you have anything against anybody forgive them so that your heavenly Father can forgive you. (Mark 11:25-26)
Jesus forgave them and you can appropriate that forgiveness that covers EVERYTHING.