Think with me about the freedom of forgiveness. When you are forgiven, you are set free. When you forgive another person, you set them free. And when you forgive another person, not only do you set them free, but you set yourself free. So we’re going to talk about how to live free.
There are two great problems that come to the human psyche: one is guilt and the other is bitterness. We have guilt because of what we have done. You ask the average person, “What is guilt?” and he’ll say, “Oh, that’s the feeling you have when you do something wrong.” No, that’s not guilt. That is the guilt feeling. If you put your hand on a hot stove and it gets burned and there’s a blister there, I would ask you, “What is the burn?” You would say, “That is the feeling you feel when you put your hand on a hot stove.” No. The blister is the burn; the feeling is the result of the blister. The guilt feeling is the result of the guilt. The worst thing in the world that you could ever do would be to try to kill the feeling without dealing with the guilt. Guilt is one of the wounds that come to the human psyche. It will not heal until it is dealt with. It will fester until it is cleansed. And guilt comes to us by something we have done wrong.
There’s another wound that comes to the human psyche, and that is bitterness. Bitterness is resentment because of what someone else has done to you—real or perceived. They may not really have done you wrong, but you perceive that they have. And, nonetheless, perception may be the cruelest form of reality. But you feel somebody has done you wrong. Guilt and bitterness both have to be dealt with by forgiveness. And our Lord, knowing the deep needs that we have, taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Why did He say, “our debts”? Because sin is a debt.
We have sinned against heaven. We’re guilty of high treason against heaven’s King. We have used God’s resources illegally because we were not giving Him the praise, the glory, the worship that is due to His name. In a sense, we have robbed Him. We have defrauded Him. And we have been sued by heaven for damages. Now when God forgives, He cancels the debt. Forgiveness is the canceling of a debt.
If you owed me a thousand dollars, and you came to me and said, “Adrian, I owe you this thousand dollars, but I cannot pay you. Would you please forgive the debt?” Suppose I did forgive it. Then, what has it cost me? A thousand dollars.
There are no bargain pardons. To forgive is costly. It costs to forgive. When God forgives us, does He say, “Oh, well, that’s all right; don’t worry about it. It wasn’t that bad; I’m a loving God.” Oh, no. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” For me to be forgiven by our Lord cost the rich, red, royal blood of the Son of God—the silver of His tears, and the gold of His blood. You see, forgiveness costs. When you forgive someone, it is costly. That’s the reason we say that grace is G-R-A-C-E—God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.
What a joy to experience the freedom of forgiveness—learning to set others free. When we’re forgiven, God sets us free. When we forgive someone else, we set them free. But, at the same time, we, again, are setting ourselves free.
Adrian Rogers and Steve Rogers, When We Say Father: Unlocking the Power of the Lord’s Prayer (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2018).