The Power to Forgive

Day 1 of 5 • This day’s reading

Devotional

Get the Train Back on the Tracks

A few years ago I took a train trip from Beijing, China to Ulanbaatar, Mongolia. The journey took us across the giant Gobi desert and up to the Mongolian Steppe. At one point, in the middle of the night, our train pulled up to the border of China and Mongolia and agents boarded to check our passports. After we were cleared, the strangest thing happened. The train actually started lifting into the air. They raised the entire train, removed the wheels, and then put on new ones.

I started asking around about why they had to change the wheels. Turns out that back in the day, when Mongolia was controlled by the Soviet Union, the Chinese used different rail sizes to keep from being invaded by the Russians. For a train to cross over the border, it requires a wheel change. It’s only a three-inch difference between the two tracks, but if you don’t change out those wheels, you’ll be stuck there.

I’ve met people who seem to be stuck at a border in their lives. One experience—a hurt, an injustice, a betrayal—derailed their life, and they let that one experience define them. They couldn't let it go and it got them stuck. Unforgiveness is the three-inch difference that will stop you in your tracks. But the decision to forgive is the change that allows you to keep moving forward.

Christianity is built on the conscious, willing act of one man taking on the sin of those who offended and hurt him and choosing to not hold it against them. Jesus let us off the hook. He’s our example of forgiveness. “As C.S. Lewis put it, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

True forgiveness isn’t easy. In fact, at times it’s downright hard. Just ask Jesus. At one point he begged, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”(Luke 22:42) You know the emotional pain and guilt you carry from your own failures and how people have hurt you. Can you imagine what it would be like to carry that kind of weight for every person who has ever lived?

Jesus took the hard road of forgiveness because he knew it was God’s will for him and for the world. It was an act of obedience. “He learned obedience through what he suffered.”(Hebrews 5:8) Jesus forgave and he tells us “now go and do the same.”(Luke 10:37) He gives us the power to forgive.

When Peter asked how many times he had to forgive someone who hurt him, Jesus told the parable we read in today’s passage. The king in the story was furious with the servant who wouldn’t forgive others. After rebuking him, he handed that man who wouldn’t forgive over to jailers to be tortured.

Holding on to unforgiveness can feel like torture. And God won’t remove those feelings if we choose to not forgive. But when we choose the hard path of forgiveness, we set ourselves free from that prison. Forgiveness isn’t optional for followers of Christ and, as with everything God asks of us, forgiveness is good for us. It frees us from the pain of living with past hurt.

In this reading plan, we’ll look at what the Bible says about forgiveness. I’ll share some personal experiences of learning how to forgive. I’ll also share some of the myths (or lies) about forgiveness that I’ve heard people share with me over the years as a pastor and counselor. I want to help you break free from the pain of the past, using God’s truths, so you can cross the border into the wide open spaces of the abundant life God has for you.