When the 4th of July comes around each year, we enjoy fireworks shows, BBQing with our friends & family and celebrate the Freedom we have as Americans. When people talk about freedom, they generally talk about one of the two meanings of Freedom. This type of freedom is the less important of the two.
What is Freedom?
The two types of freedom are very different and have various implications for our lives. The first type of freedom is:
The Freedom “TO”
the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.- Freedom
This is the type of freedom that most Americans think about when we celebrate the 4th of July. This is the freedom or ability “TO DO” something. The freedom to speak your mind, associate with whom you like, worship God, protest an idea, express ourselves and generally do whatever we desire would fall into the category of “The Freedom TO”. The second type of Freedom is much more applicable to the Believer. This second type of freedom is:
The Freedom “FROM”
the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.- Freedom
This is the type of freedom that has to do with our souls. Because of the sin that was indwelt within us when we were born, our hearts and souls were in bondage. Due to our sin we had no capacity to not sin, to love, to walk with God but also to forgive. True forgiveness can only happen when we have faith in Christ. We forgive because Christ has forgiven us. There is potentially no greater bondage other than the bondage of sin than the bodage of unforgiveness. Jesus spoke a parable about forgiveness in Matthew 18
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”- Matthew 18:21-35
One of the points of this parable was to illustrate the bondage that is unforgiveness. The servant who shook down his fellow servant was bound in unforgiveness. Even though the master had released him of his debt, he still felt the need to collect the debt of his fellow servant. Ultimately this servant was throw in the eternal bondage of Hell.
Jesus said that if we do not forgive others of their sins, God will not forgive us of our sins. The ultimate freedom that we can have in our life and in our soul is the freedom from unforgiveness.
In 1982, 16 year old Linda Rule went missing from her home. She was later discovered to have been murdered by serial killer Gary Ridgway. After Ridgway was caught by police and found guilty of over 40 murders of young women, he faced the families of those he had murdered. Most of the families came to the podium and expressed their hatred for this man and what he had done to their children. Some came to the podium and expressed their belief that he would “rot in Hell” like he deserved. As the families, one by one, expressed their anguish and pain, Gary sat their in the courtroom with a cold stare.
One of the final family members to take the podium was Robert Rule, the father of Linda Rule. In a calm and loving voice he spoke to the murderer of his beloved daughter,
Mr. Ridgway, there people here who hate you, I’m not one of them,” Rule said to him. “I forgive you for what you have done. You’ve made it difficult to live up to what I believe, and what God says to do, and that is to forgive. And he doesn’t say to forgive certain people, he says to forgive all. So you are forgiven, sir.- Robert Rule
In an unbelievable statement of forgiveness from Robert, he showed the ultimate freedom that he had in his soul. Even though he had been wronged and suffered one of the most unimaginable tragedies a person could endure, he faced the man who had taken the life of his daugher and offered forgiveness.
Why did Robert offer forgiveness to this man? The answer is in the facts that Robert himself had been forgiven much by his Savior, Jesus Christ. When we understand the magnitude of the forgiveness that Jesus gives to us when we put our faith in Him and repent of our sins, forgiveness becomes the response of the Christian. When we understand that our own sin is just as great in the eyes of God as the serial killer Ridgway, we gladly forgive because God has so willingly and freely forgiven us through His Son Jesus.
If you are battling unforgiveness in your life, remember the forgiveness that the Lord has given to you if you are in Christ. No matter how great the offense or hurt we have been through, nothing is to great to forgive. This 4th of July, had true freedom in your soul by not being bound by unforgiveness. Do not allow the ball and chain of unforgiveness to have any place in your heart or spirit. When we trust Christ as Messiah and love him, we have true freedom in our soul and will forgive those who are in debt to us.