God has woven into the fabric of obedience and disobedience a Law of Consequence. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). God does not “get us” when we sin, we get ourselves. The consequences that we must live with when we deliberately sin are many and varied, but no sin pays a greater negative consequence than the sin of unforgiveness. This is because it is a direct violation of God’s command for us to love one another.
When we willingly and consciously harbor wrong attitudes towards another, thoughts and attitudes that are out of harmony with the thoughts and attitudes of our Lord Jesus, scripture says that we will be turned over to the jailers, literally, the torturersor the inquisitors.
In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus told of a man who was forgiven a tremendous debt, but in turn refused to forgive someone who owed him a very small debt. As a result, he was turned over to the torturers. Jesus ended the story with the following statement, “So also, My heavenly Father will do to you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
How easy it is to ignore this warning, given to us by our Lord Jesus Himself. How easy it is to tell ourselves that our anger and refusal to forgive are justified, for no one ought to behave as “so and so” behaved towards us. Therefore, we are right in our resentment and in the standing up for our rights. But, my friends, scripture calls us to forgive one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). And, there are no qualifiers attached to that command.
Throughout my forty-six years of pastoral ministry, I have personally witnessed that the quickest way to spiritual and mental torment is the refusal to forgive as one has been forgiven. This self-chosen condition is far worse than any offending brother or sister could ever inflict upon us.
When I forgive a captive is set free, the surprising thing though, is that the captive is me. Only forgiveness that comes from the heart sets one free from the torturers.