Click here to listen => Podcast Episode 4: Forgiveness and the Health Connection
“Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how many times will my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I say to you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven.”
Today’s Podcast is Podcast Episode 4: Forgiveness and the Health Connection. Our scripture focus is Matthew 18:21, “Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how many times will my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I say to you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven.”
Forgiveness in the Bible
The Bible is filled with a number of experiences involving forgiveness. The Bible in itself is one long story of how God reaches out to show His love and forgiveness to mankind. In Genesis 3:15 God gives His first promise of a Redeemer who would forgive the world of their sin. God gives various stories in His Word demonstrating forgiveness.
Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25, 27, 32, 33) - Forgiveness Bible Story
Jacob and Esau, two twin brothers who were very different from one another. One was a man’s man. Esau loved outdoor activities like tending the sheep and hunting. Jacob preferred to stay at home and learn from his mother. Jacob tricked his brother out of his brother Esau’s birthright. Animosity, hatred and rage to the point of wanting to kill his brother filled Esau’s heart. Out of fear, Jacob fled from his brother. As brothers grew older, God allowed their paths to cross and when they finally met, Esau ran to Jacob and hugged him and kissed him and showed forgiveness and mercy. He had so forgiven Jacob that he was surprised Jacob would even think that there might be hard feelings between them.
Joseph (Genesis 37-50) - Forgiveness Among Brothers
The young dreamer Joseph, favored and beloved by his father, yet greatly despised by his older brothers. One day, his brothers stripped him of his robe of many colors, threw him into a pit, left him for dead. Out of guilt, his older brother Reuben further perpetuated the wrongs against Joseph and didn’t want his blood on their hands and sold him into slavery and told their father, he was killed by a wild beast. As a slave, he was accused of raping Potiphar’s wife and was sentenced to prison. While in prison, he excels and is promoted only second to Pharaoh ruling over the land. God reunites Joseph’s brothers to him due to a severe famine. This amazing story of forgiveness culminates with these words from Joseph to his brothers:
“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.” Genesis 50:19-21
King David (Psalms 51) and a Song of Forgiveness
David wrote about a time in his life where he exercised poor judgement. He committed adultery with another man’s wife and intentionally had this man murdered on the battlefield so that he could cover of the sin of committing adultery and getting her pregnant. God sent the prophet Nathan to expose his wrong, he repented and had to live with the consequences of his sin.
Prodigal Son (Luke 15) - Forgiving Bible Story Between a Father and a Son
Jesus taught a story that illustrates redemption, love and forgiveness in Luke 15:11-32. It is commonly called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
There was a man who had two sons. The oldest was obedient and the oldest was content to live with his father. The younger couldn’t wait to get away from the family to live life on his own terms. When he was able, he went to his father to ask for his portion of the inheritance. When he got his money he ran off to a distant land. Jesus says that the young man wasted his money in wild living. A short time later the economy bottomed out and the man had no money, no job and no friends. He was willing to take whatever job he could get and ended up taking care of pigs for a farmer. He was so destitute that he was willing to eat the pig feed to stay alive.
The young man wised up and realized that he had a loving father who treated his servants better than the boy was currently living. He decided to return home as a servant to the father. At least he would have food to eat. Little did he know, his father was expecting the boy’s return. As soon as the father saw the young man on the horizon, he ran to him with open arms of forgiveness.
Though the boy returned with hopes of just being a servant, the father accepted him as the son he always was. The boy was forgiven and restored to his former position in the family.
The ultimate display of forgiveness is based upon the forgiveness that God extends to us through his Son who died on the cross for us. God recognizes that because of the sin nature we inherited from Adam and Eve, it is our nature to sin and live life in a way that is contrary to the principles that He lays out for us in the Bible. Because God loves us so much, His solution for this problem was to make forgiveness of sins available to us by the death of Jesus. The Bible also has several verses that instruct us to forgive others who have sinned against us.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.”
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
What is Forgiveness?
A definition for forgiveness could be -- giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. It is impossible to live on this fallen planet without getting hurt, offended, misunderstood, lied to, and rejected. Learning how to respond properly is one of the basics of the Christian life.
The word “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek his or her forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. It is important to remember that forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. Instead, it is an act of love, mercy, and grace.
How we act toward that person may change. It doesn't mean we will put ourselves back into a harmful situation or that we suddenly accept or approve of the person's continued wrong behavior. It simply means we release them from the wrong they committed against us. We forgive them because God forgave us.
“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered,
to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.”
How Does Unforgiveness Impact Your Health?
In the natural, when a person carries unforgiveness in their heart, it is classified in medical books as a disease. Here’s what researchers have discovered:
According to Dr. Steven Standiford, Chief of Surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, refusing to forgive makes people sick and keeps them that way. With that in mind, forgiveness therapy is now being used to help treat diseases, such as cancer. "It's important to treat emotional wounds or disorders because they really can hinder someone's reactions to the treatments, even someone's willingness to pursue treatment."
Of all cancer patients, 61 percent have forgiveness issues, and of those, more than half are severe, according to research by Dr. Michael Barry, a pastor and the author of the book, The Forgiveness Project. After thorough medical, theological, and sociological research and clinical experience at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), Pastor Barry discovered that the immune system and forgiveness are very much connected.
"Harboring these negative emotions, this anger and hatred, creates a state of chronic anxiety. Chronic anxiety very predictably produces excess adrenaline and cortisol, which deplete the production of natural killer cells, which is your body's foot soldier in the fight against cancer. Pastor Barry believes that the first step in learning to forgive is to realize how much we have been forgiven by God. When a person forgives from the heart which is the gold standard we see in Matthew 18, forgiveness from the heart, individuals are able to find a sense of peacefulness. Quite often patients refer to that as a feeling of lightness. Most people don't realize what a burden anger and hatred were until they let them go.”
Whether it’s a simple spat with your spouse or long-held resentment toward a family member or friend, unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize and could be the reason why you are not physically well. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. My work with clients focuses on the health of the immune system. When the immune system is weakened, your health begins to decline.
When we forgive and let go of anger, bitterness strife and hatred, the immune system begins to health, calms stress levels and leads to overall improved health. Studies further show that that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age. Consequently, they tend to be more satisfied with their lives and to have less depression, anxiety, stress, anger and hostility. People who hang on to grudges, however, are more likely to experience severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other health conditions.
Following Jesus Example by Forgiving Others
Ultimately, God designed us in a way that we should not hold onto grudges and bitterness towards others. If we choose to do so, staying in a place of unforgiveness takes a major toll of our spiritual, emotional and physical health. Forgiveness is not just about saying the words. “It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not. As you release the anger, resentment and hostility, God will begin to replace those negative emotions with love, empathy, compassion and sometimes even affection for the person who wronged you.
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.”
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be
condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”
What would God want you to do? Search your heart and let him reveal any unforgiveness and bitterness residing within your soul. There is a Mind-Body connection when you have a soul that is sick, your physical body will, your immune system will be impacted.
Don’t keep silent any longer, if God has shown you something, He wants you to confess this sin and extend forgiveness to the person associated with that pain and hurt. As Jesus told Peter, “Let it go.” His Son paid a high price so you can be forgiven by God. If you have committed the sin or someone committed the sin against you, know that there is nothing that cannot be healed by God emotionally or physically. Some signs that you are harboring unforgivness are anger, wrong thoughts or attitudes, resistance to the Word or God, dislike, grudges, retaliation, disrespect, resistance, hurt, anguish, rebellion, arthritis, cancer, joint paint other physical ailments. Here is what you can do to change to direction that you’re going:
(1) Confess your sins and any unforgiveness before the Lord.
(2) Forgive the other person “in faith” because you cannot go on feelings or emotions.
(3) Ask the Lord to forgive them.
(3) Ask the Lord to bless that person in the way He wants them blessed.
(4) Bless them yourself.
(5) If you don’t know what upset them find out what offended them and apologize, so you can win them to the Lord and share the gospel.
You can also access the link for 20 Forgiveness Scriptures and the Forgiveness Project book for yourself or to share with a loved one or friend.