“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:7-8 (NIV)
I call the fifth and sixth Beatitudes the Freedom Beatitudes because they offer us two steps to real freedom! Christianity is a decision followed by a process. These eight Beatitudes identify the steps in the process God uses to restore our lives. From the fifth Beatitude we discover Restoration Step Five:
I recognize I need forgiveness like everyone else. Therefore, I choose forgiveness over bitterness.
The barrier of bitterness keeps me stuck in the past. It causes me to relive the offense over and over again leaving me as a victim. Bitterness becomes a vicious cycle that can disable you. We simply can’t change when we are holding on to bitterness. The world says, “Don’t get mad. Get even!” And even though pay back may feel good for a moment, it keeps us stuck in the past offense. The bridge of forgiveness leads to freedom! Jesus said, “When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” (Mark 11:25 NLT) The Bible’s word for forgive is aphiemi, and it means to let it go or to release. George Herbert once said, “He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven.” So, how do you take this step? First, I must choose to admit my hurt. Don’t pretend it didn’t hurt when it did. Take that hurt to God, and then make a deliberate choice to release your offender. This doesn’t mean that the one who hurt you is off the hook. Forgiveness permits God to work in your behalf. And the way to release your offender to God is to pray for them. Jesus told us to “Pray for those who mistreat you.” (Matthew 5:8 NIV) When you choose to let it go by giving it to God, you’ve taken a step on the bridge of freedom. Keep walking forward!