Forgiveness Is . . . Letting Go

In thinking of bitterness I would venture to guess that most people consider it an issue of being hurt or wronged. And while this is certainly true, there is an interwoven thread that so often colors the dynamics of our interpersonal relationships – CONTROL.

Almost from the very beginning of time as we know it, humans have tried to control other humans. This was never part of God’s original design.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.’” Genesis 1:26 (NET)

As the image-bearers of God we were given dominion over the created world around us, but never over each other. God’s heart in this matter can further be seen in 1 Samuel 8 as the Israelites demanded that they be given a king in order to conform to the pattern of the surrounding nations. Reluctantly He allowed them to have their own way. The line between leading and governing versus controlling may sometimes be a fine one, but there is a line nonetheless.

Through the centuries we have seen so many lives lost, so many families destroyed, so many churches devastated—all because one person (or group of people) sought to violate God’s design by controlling another.[1]

As found in the New Testament, one of the primary Greek words for forgive (aphíēmi) literally means to send off, release, let go, let be.[2]

Photo by kevinrosseel - MorgueFile

When someone hurts or wrongs us we feel as though they owe us a debt. We want to hold onto our right to be right. We expect them to pay some type of price for what they’ve done. And so we hold onto that expectation, nursing and coddling our pain. Over and over we replay the mental reruns of the wrong(s) that they have done, often adapting the scenario to vindicate and justify ourselves. At the root of it all is a desire/need for control.

When we try to control others, especially through bitterness, we forfeit the grace God would otherwise pour into our lives. The end result is that we are alienated from a place of abiding in Christ—a spiritually barren destiny for sure.

The Lord’s Prayer was designed to facilitate the government of God’s kingdom in our lives as we willingly surrender to His will. We would do well to take all of it to heart rather than to merely utilize this powerful prayer for mindless ritual.

Photo by alvimann - MorgueFile

Are you hurting as a result of someone’s neglect, cruelty, injustice or betrayal? Release the debt they owe you! Send it off! Let it go! Let it be! His healing grace will restore your heart!

“Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13 (NET)


[1] I’m certainly not advocating a lawless society, but I am saying that freedom is the foundation of God’s design and that our laws should be designed to protect freedom more than to restrict (and certainly not to oppress). In this we see the genius of our founding fathers. While some were clearly not Christian, all realized the value of designing a government built upon Biblical principles.

[2] . Vol. 1: Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (509). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

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