By Phil Matarazzo
“Let today be the day you finally release yourself from the imprisonment of past grudges and anger. Simplify your life. Let go of the poisonous past and live the abundantly beautiful present… today.” Dr. Steve Maraboli
We find freedom by demonstrating God’s mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love, by keeping no records nor keeping score. Demonstrating God’s unconditional love looks like this: “Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others” (1 Corinthians 13:5 The Message Bible).
Holding onto offenses and/or keeping score of wrongs and rights are deeds of the carnal sinful nature, better known Biblically as the “flesh.” Flesh and sin are synonymous, and are what keep us separated from the presence of God (Isaiah 59:2). We can’t live a life of fulfillment being separated from God (John 15:5). We can’t live a fulfilled life living out of our carnal sinful nature. To live a life of fulfillment we must destroy the sinful nature and the only way is through sanctification (John 17:17—Joshua 3:5). We need to understand that our flesh and the sins it bares are the barriers that stand between us and God. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear you” (Isaiah 59:2ESV). Two of the greatest and most destructive behaviors that are born from the flesh are, “holding onto offenses, and keeping records.” One is the sin of “judgment,” the other, the sin of putting “conditions” on your acts of kindness. To hold onto an offense you first have to judge the person who offended you. Always be cautious never to judge another. Judging another leads to hardness of the heart. “Blessed is the one who is always cautious, but whoever hardens their heart will fall into evil” (Proverbs 28:14 NET Bible). To keep score you have to put conditions on your acts of love, mercy and kindness. This is “manipulation,” and “deception.” You aren’t what you are perceived to be.
When you have wronged someone do you see it as sinning against them or God? What comes to mind first? That also goes for when someone wrongs you. Do you feel the person has sinned against you or against God? How could king David say to God after committing adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, and then killing Uriah, “Against you, you only, have I sinned (Psalm 51:4). Sin is not wrongdoing against another first. It’s first and utmost wrongdoing against God. By Biblical definition sin is rebellion against God not against people. Sinning against His laws and His position of authority. We are His children and He is our heavenly Father. When we disobey our earthly father there are consequences because we are rebelling against his authority. Our Father in heaven says that He will not be mocked nor deceived. We will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7,8). We must allow God to be the judge. We have the right to judge the behavior of another and put up boundaries around ourselves in order to protect ourselves, but we are not to judge and assassin their character. “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (inherit a life of fulfillment)” (1 Peter 3:9 NIV). Parenthesis mine. This is not easy to do, but God will help us if we humble ourselves to the point of giving up our rights to Him as Christ gave up His rights for us. This is the process of sanctification. Giving up our rights in order to glorify God. To set ourselves apart for God’s purpose.
The Bible teaches us to be merciful with those who have wronged us. Do not judge. Do not slander. Do not condemn. Forgive. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured out into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke6:36-38 Berean Study Bible).
When someone fails to return a favor that you thought they owed you, what do you think? “That person is so ungrateful, after all I’ve done for them, I’ll never help them again.” Sounds like conditions followed by judgment; deeds of the flesh. How about keeping records of wrongs done against you? These thoughts may accrue. “I will never forgive you, you are a very bad person who deserves to be punished. I hate you. I will get even.” These acts of disobedience to God’s Word will put us in bondage, harden our hearts and separate us from God’s peace, joy, and forgiveness. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14,15 NIV). If we are to live a life of fulfillment we need not to hold on to offenses and/or keep score. Living the abundant life and living a life of fulfillment are synonymous and can only be accomplished through knowledge, humility and obedience, not holding onto offenses, not keeping score or being bitter or revengeful. Rather, have a heart of mercy, grace, compassion, gratitude, and forgiveness. This is the heart of Jesus Christ who forgave you and unconditionally pardoned you (Luke 23:24). Giving you the right of passage to His Father’s heart. God asks us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 Bereans Study Bible).
To live a life of fulfillment we must have the same attitude that His Son Jesus had. “In your relationship with another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV). Jesus gave up His life so that we may live ours abundantly (John 10:10).
“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift to live it well.” Voltaire
Lord, there is so much pain in this world. So much injustice. So much evil, and yet You ask me to have Your attitude. What do I do with my pain and anger? Do I pretend it’s not there? Teach me how not to hold on to offenses, not to keep score, and not to judge. Teach me not to take things personal. Give me the courage and strength it takes to love and forgive others as You have loved and forgiven me. I will try my best to get to the end of myself, to be humble, obedient, compassionate, and to have Your attitude. Thank You for loving me unconditionally, and for never giving up on me. I will forever be thankful. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.