Shackles are metal fasteners that were put on the wrists and/or ankles of prisoners to restrain them. Shackles were binding and confined prisoners by preventing liberal movement. Attitudes and actions that are contrary to God’s Word are sins and become shackles that fasten around us to bind us, hold us down, and prevent us from moving freely in the direction that will bring us life and love more abundantly.
One shackle that attempts to grip all of us at one time or another is the lack of forgiveness. When we are falsely accused, hurt physically or emotionally, offended by what somebody says or does, or sinned against, our human response is to strike back in word, in deed, or even in silence to hurt the one who has hurt us. However, through example, God shows us a better way, a higher way, the best way, a way that will enable us to walk as He walked.
In Isaiah 43:24-26 (NIV) we hear God say to His people, “… you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses. I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake and remembers your sins no more. Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence.”
The first thing we see in this scripture is that God confronted those who sinned against Him. He told them they had burdened (bathed and soaked) Him with their sins and wearied (exhausted and tired) Him with their iniquities – wrong, and immoral behavior.
Next, immediately following the confrontation, we see God’s mercy come into focus! God asked the people to speak with Him, requesting that they reason together. God was saying to them if you don’t understand I will help you to understand and the understanding will guide you to repentance. He was saying, with me there is forgiveness through which our fellowship can be restored.
God is our model; He is both the pattern maker and the pattern which we are to follow. Therefore, in following God’s example, when someone hurts us or offends us, we should put our “feelings” aside as He did and apply love and mercy. We should confront people with offenses, tell them that we are hurt, help them to understand, and give them an opportunity to choose to repent.
Why forgive, blot out, and remember sin no more?
- Forgiveness removes all guilt (Psalm 32:5), which is a fastener that binds.
- Forgiveness removes alienation and restores fellowship (if the one forgiven also wants fellowship restored).
- Forgiveness assures grace for the now and promises mercy and help for the future.
- Forgiveness allows everyone to see and to know God as merciful; through this, He is glorified.
- Forgiveness allows others to see God in the one who forgives.
We need to forgive for our own sake so we can act in obedience to God and His Word, and be released from the shackle of the sin of not forgiving. We need to forgive for the sake of others so they can be released from being bound by guilt, shame, and alienation. We need to forgive for God’s sake so He might be glorified in showing His mercy through us.