A large pile of potatoes fills a table in the middle of the room. Nearby tables hold colorful backpacks. Pick up a backpack. Load it with potatoes that represent your unforgiveness. Don’t leave anything out. Put a name and an offence on each potato. There’s a potato for that thing your teacher said when you were in third grade, one for that fight you had with your spouse, your mom, or best friend, another for the mean things someone did to you in middle school, another for the things you did with that guy (girl) you thought loved you, another for your dad’s neglect, or what your sister said last week, and all the rest. More and more potatoes go into the bag.
When you finish, heft that backpack onto your shoulders and strap it on. How does it feel? Heavy? Well, it should be, you had a lot of unforgiveness.
Now, carry that backpack around with you all day. And all night. Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with it on your back. Wear it to bed, to the bathroom, to work or school, to the ballgame, to the mall, to the coffee shop, to the grocery store, to Walmart. Is it getting heavier?
Have you noticed anything else about that backpack full of potatoes? Oh, it’s beginning to smell funky. And it keeps getting worse. Like that one rotten potato in the back of your fridge that you can smell when you walk in the front door. But your backpack is right on your back. Ew!
Who can smell it? Well, everyone. The stink goes everywhere you go. And everyone can smell it.
Keep in mind that these smelly potatoes represent your unforgiveness. Your unforgiveness also gets heavy, and it stinks, and it affects the people around you. And it goes everywhere with you. You’re grumpy, irritable, sullen, bad tempered, whiney, critical, snappy, unkind, angry. Bottom line: you’re unpleasant to be around. You even make yourself sick.
What can you do about it?
Do you remember the helium balloon your mom bought you when you were little? You held the string tightly in your fist for a while. But something else caught your attention and you let go. The balloon went up, and up, and up. And eventually you couldn’t see it anymore.
Do the same thing with your unforgiveness. Let go. Tell God you’re letting go of it. And give it to Him. After all, it’s His job to punish sin. And He’s good at it. Don’t take over God’s job. His hands are big enough to do whatever is necessary. Yours are not.
In Matthew 6: 9-15, the familiar words of His model prayer, Jesus says for us to say: “…Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors…. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus knew we need forgiveness, of ourselves and others, as much as we need our daily bread. It’s all part of our Father’s forgiveness.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean the wrong wasn’t wrong. It doesn’t mean the thing didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean earthly consequences go away. It means you have decided, from now on, to deal with the person or circumstances, even yourself, as if the offence didn’t happen. God doesn’t forget. He knows everything. But, like Him, you’re not going to bring it up to the wrong-doer, to yourself, to anybody else. You’ve given it to God to deal with in His way. In His time.
Through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (belief in His life, death, and resurrection for your sins), repentance (changing your mind about your sinful condition and being willing to change), and receiving Him as your Lord and Savior, God will forgive a Christian just as He forgave David when heconfessed his big sins (committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband).
Read his confession in Psalm 51: 1-15
Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight…. Purge me with hyssop [which represents the blood of Jesus] and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please forgive my unforgiveness and help me forgive others as you have forgiven me. Help me lay down this heavy, stinky load. Even if they never say “sorry,” help me think of them and treat them as if they had never hurt or offended me. Wash me with the blood of Jesus, and I will be as white as snow. Take this heavy load from me and do what you must do. Help me stop trying to carry stuff my hands were never meant to carry. Create in me a clean heart. Thank you, Father. I ask all of this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.
Truth: If someone finally comes to you with an apology, you will be ready and willing to extend your forgiveness because you’ve already forgiven them, just as your Father forgave you.