LOVE AND FORGIVENESS (PART 10)
“Recognizing our own sinfulness and pride is key to forgiveness. We are called to look at the plank of sin in our own eyes before we call out the speck that exists in the person who offends us (see Matt. 7:3-5). We all have fallen short of God’s standard and need mercy just like everyone else (see Rom. 3:23). We cannot demand that God forgive us while we fail to forgive others. When dealing with this very issue, Jesus recounted a parable of the wicked servant describing how he was forgiven a great debt by his master. When it came to forgiving a fellow servant, he was impatient and severely judged him. Upon hearing what happened, the master threw this servant into a far more severe punishment because the servant had been unmerciful (see Matt. 18:23-35 cf. Jas. 2:13).” Notably, the king’s servant was not given a second chance to forgive his own servant. “Likewise, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that if we are forgiven, forgiveness will be a by-product of our faith (see Matt. 6:12). Forgiveness must be freely offered because we have been freely forgiven by God (see Eph. 4:32; Matt. 6:12,14,15). The grace and mercy we have received should cause us to have mercy on those around us. When we learn to meditate on the Gospel regularly, we see how much God forgives us before we even ask. Our very repentance needs repenting of. Our tears and acts of repentance are contaminated by false motivations and pride. God forgives us for things we fail even to recognize as faults. The Psalmist himself cried out ‘If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?’ (Psa. 130:3 cf. Psa. 76:7). The answer is ‘no one’. If God were to hold us to the standard of complete repentance for our inborn and actual sins, we would never come to God. And yet as we see, the Lord is overflowing with forgiveness and compassion for His people. The Lord sent His Son to die for us while we were enemies and while we could not offer repentance (see Rom. 5:6-ff). His goodness overcame our evil, unmerciful hearts.” “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). Christians must overcome the sins of others toward them, by love and forgiveness from hearts that are filled with mercy and compassion. You will never forgive anyone unless you are loving, merciful and compassionate.
A good lesson as to what forgiveness is, how we are to express forgiveness and what it entails, is found in the parable of the prodigal son (see Lk. 15:11-32). The prodigal son dishonored his father by asking for his inheritance to be paid to him immediately, and then went his way irresponsibly squandering it all on riotous living (see Lk. 15:13). The man’s son ended up having little to eat, in fact things had become so bad that he was perishing with hunger, and was living in squalor and when he realized his father’s servants had more than enough to eat, he determined to return to his father and confess that he had sinned not only against him, but also against God (see Lk. 15:17-19). As he was returning, His father, upon seeing him from a distance, did not wait for his son to reach him, but ran—he did not begrudgingly walk toward him, or wait for his son to come to him while recounting what his son had done—but he ran as fast as he could to his son, hugged him and kissed him. “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Lk. 15:20). THAT my friend is forgiveness! No mention of sin, no lecture on ‘do you realize how much you hurt me and grieved my soul’, etc. No recriminations WHATSOEVER! The father had only love for his son, and immediately called for his servants to prepare a feast in celebration of his son’s repentance and return to him. Do you see how much joy there was in that relationship, in that household. How joy-filled the father was in having forgiven his son, and how his son must have been filled with tears of joy at his father’s overwhelming expression of love and immediate, free-flowing, unconditional forgiveness. Yes, this was a familial love—the love of a father for his son—but it is the same kind of love that should be shared and shown amongst all Christians, for we are family, we are brethren. “…love as brethren…” (1 Pet. 3:8). We are all the children of God, the children of love, the children of forgiveness, the children born out of grace and mercy because of love and forgiveness. The father’s other son, however, was filled with nothing but contempt for his brother whom he referred to, when protesting to his father, as “thy son” (Lk. 15:30). Which person are you, dear Christian? Are you filled with nothing but contempt for those who sin against you, even your brother or sister in Christ? Do you seek revenge by not forgiving them? Or are you as the father of the prodigal son? Do you jump at the opportunity to forgive and seek for restoration of love and fellowship with a member of your spiritual family? The thought of life without forgiveness is unbearable. Imagine not being forgiven by God. It would simply be a veritable, Hellish nightmare. Do you love being forgiven by God? Yes? Then go out and prove your love by forgiving those who have sinned against you.
Perhaps the ultimate question you need to ask yourself concerning someone’s having sinned against you, is, ‘Has that person done anything to me which is unforgiveable?’ People can be quite taken aback when confronted with such a question, for by it they are made to realize that their problem is not so much the other person’s sin, or their own inability to forgive, but their unwillingness to forgive. The real problem is NEVER the injustice suffered, but the lack of forgiveness toward it. The absence of the presence of the desire to forgive, or the lack of desire to take action and forgive, are very disturbing signs indeed that show there is something very wicked at work in a Christian who has a limited inclination, or no desire at all, to forgive. Those of us who ‘struggle with forgiveness’ need to ask ourselves, ‘Has that Christian brother, or sister, done anything to me which God has not forgiven?’ If the Holy God forgives me my sin, and the sin of my brother or sister in Christ, then surely I who am also a sinner must forgive the sin of another toward me. If the Holy God has forgiven my brother’s sin, then surely I should forgive him also. Does love and compassion because of God’s love for you govern your life, or is your response to God’s loving and forgiving you governed by your sinfulness and that of others? The essence of unforgiveness is the outrage we feel that someone would dare sin against us. Many take God’s love and forgiveness of them for granted, and then react with loathing toward any who sin against them! As if sinning against God is almost ok, for God forgives His people, but ‘sin against me and you will feel my wrath’. Just for a moment, try and think of someone who has sinned against you, whom you have not forgiven, and forget about any bitterness and hatred you may feel toward them. Think of nothing but loving thoughts, pray for them and insist on nothing but a forgiving attitude toward them. If you can do this, then why not just continue down this road of love and forgiveness and pure thoughts. If you are unwilling to do this, if you cannot think of that person or persons without feeling a sense of bitterness and even hatred, then you have a severe problem. Be not deceived, all unforgiveness is hatred. Unforgiveness does not come from love, but is the fruit of hate. Nothing is unforgiveable, and, believe it or not, no one is beyond our loving and forgiving freely and fully from the heart. Everyone whom God has forgiven is forgivable by us His people. If God has forgiven them why won’t you? If God has forgiven them why don’t you? Try and find Biblical support for your unforgiveness, and you will fail every time. Go to God with the pain of having been sinned against, and He will always tell you, ‘Forgive, as I have forgiven you’. Who are we to complain about a brother who has sinned against us, when the Holy God has forgiven us both for everything we have done to Him! So often people have been deceived by their deceitful and wicked hearts into mistaking unwillingness to forgive for an inability to forgive. Unwillingness to forgive often uses past hurt, as well as sheer inner hatred, pride and resentment, to disguise itself as inability to forgive. ‘I want to forgive, but I just can’t’ is simply a ridiculous statement to make. Unforgiveness is simply a willful, determined decision not to forgive. Unforgiveness is not something that happens to you, it cannot take up residence in your heart by accident. Unforgiveness needs your nod of approval before it can abide in your heart. No one can force unforgiveness into you, for unforgiveness is something which comes from within you.
If you have unforgiveness in your heart YOU are the one who put it there! This sickness did not happen to you, for it comes from within you. YOU ARE THE SICKNESS! Take up your responsibility, repent, love and forgive. Unforgiveness is simply the manifestation of hatred and wounded pride and an insistence that the ego be served. Giving place to hatred in your life will only serve to destroy you. Unforgiveness is a commitment to self, it is a personal commitment to avenge the injustice done against you, and a refusal to act with love and mercy toward the one who has sinned against you. Unforgiveness is a refusal to forgive a fellow human being as God has forgiven you. People who continually lean on past hurt committed against them to excuse their ‘inability’ to forgive, are simply hiding the fact that they just do not want to forgive God’s way, while simultaneously having the temerity to bathe in the beauty and warmth of God’s gracious love and forgiveness toward them! Some people say, ‘My intention is to forgive’. It is clearly not enough to ‘intend’ to forgive. We must water our intentions with love so that our forgiveness of others will blossom. God did not just intend to forgive His people, He actually has forgiven His people. The reality of God’s forgiveness of His people is they will not go to Hell, for they are no longer under any condemnation (see Rom. 8:1). Unforgiveness is placing oneself before God. It is to replace God’s will for us with our own will. Unforgiveness is disobedience. Unforgiveness is a work of the flesh not a manifestation of love from the heart. There is no sin committed against us, whatsoever, that cannot be forgiven by the love and forgiveness instilled in us by God. God should be our motivation to treat others in the same way He has treated us. The Christian is fully equipped with all he needs to forgive all who have sinned against him, and the love of God shed abroad in our hearts is always with us and always leads us to willingly forgive and restore a right and proper relationship with one and all. To fight against forgiveness is to fight against God. Unforgiveness is disrespecting God and disregarding His will.
After teaching the Lord’s prayer, Jesus went on to say the following attention grabbing, eyebrow raising and earth shattering statement: “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15). This Scripture should put the fear of God into all who read it. We should all exceedingly quake not only at the consequences of unforgiveness, but at the very thought of not receiving forgiveness from God. If you find yourself looking for some kind of loophole in this verse from Matthew 6, ask yourself, ‘Why, as a Christian, am I looking for some kind of excuse in this verse not to forgive, instead of simply loving and forgiving all who have sinned against me’. ‘What is driving me in my life?’ Is it the world, the flesh, the Devil or God? “…where men are not of a forgiving temper to their fellow creatures and fellow Christians, how can they expect forgiveness at the hands of God? or what sense of pardoning grace can there be upon their minds? Had they any right apprehensions of the grace and goodness of God, in the forgiveness of their sins, this would influence their minds, and engage their hearts to forgive such who have offended them: wherefore, where this is wanting, it may be concluded of, and said to such persons, ‘neither will your Father forgive your trespasses’. It is a plain case, that your Father has not given you a true sense of the pardon of your sins, nor can you be certain that He will; nor have you any reason to expect it, when you are so cruel and revengeful to others. There is a considerable emphasis lies upon the word ‘men’, to which ‘heavenly Father’ is opposed, and the sense, according to it, is, that if men, who are upon an equal foot with each other, should not forgive one another, how should it be expected that our Father which is in Heaven, Who is so much above, and no ways obliged to us, should forgive us?” One who refuses to forgive has nothing to support his claim to have been forgiven of God. The forgiven people of God will forgive. Unforgiveness is a monumental sin, the seriousness of which cannot be overemphasized. If your ‘forgiveness’ has not led you to do all you can to restore the relationship between yourself and the person you claim to have forgiven, then all you have is a false forgiveness which only accommodates you. It is not godly forgiveness, but a selfish worldly forgiveness that does nothing for anyone.
There is simply no reason why a Christian should not want to forgive and seek peace with a fellow believer whom God has forgiven. The pain and hurt we all experience in life is not to be mulled over and meditated on, but forgiven, and love is to be given full license to always have its way in us and through us. Busy yourself with loving your neighbour and your brethren, and you will have no time for unforgiveness in your life. When you engage in love and forgiveness, “The past can’t hurt you anymore, unless you let it”. Any Christian who can meditate upon the forgiveness of God for him, and then turn around and deny forgiveness to a brother is a very poor Christian at best, and an utterly deluded person at worst. Such a person should examine themselves and see whether they really are in the Faith (see 2 Cor. 13:5). Are we, the forgiven ones, to wage war with those who have sinned against us, but who have been equally forgiven by God? We are all tempted to seek revenge, to do something, or not do something which will exact some retribution upon the one who has sinned against us, to make them feel at least some of the pain we have felt, but if acted upon, vengeance becomes an extremely serious issue indeed. Like nitroglycerin vengeance is a volatile destroyer which holds no allegiances other than to itself. No human has any right to vengeance, for all are sinners. Only the Holy God has a right to vengeance, to avenge Himself against sin and the sinner: “…avenge not yourselves…Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Vengefully striking back at one who has sinned against us can manifest in many ways from physical or verbal abuse to a cold and indifferent silence. Silence is soft kill, the impairment or disruption of communication. Pure evil. There is nothing subtle about it, for it is like a sledgehammer in the mind of the one who is ostracized by another’s unforgiveness. Silence and separation may not feel like you are directly attacking the one you refuse to forgive, but the unforgiven one feels the attack every day, they feel the presence of your unforgiveness every day, they feel the presence of your absence every day, they feel the pain of separation every day, and yet they only love and forgive in return. Have you ever stopped to think what it must be like for the other person on the end of your unforgiveness, or are you so wrapped up in yourself that you only have eyes for you! Would you like to be on the receiving end of your unforgiveness? Would you prefer to be forgiven or unforgiven? Forgive the unforgiver and pray that God will fill their hearts with love and forgiveness. “In Matthew 6 Jesus is teaching disciples how to pray and in doing so outlines how we are restored into intimacy with God whenever we have displeased Him. In fact, Jesus instructs us to build into our prayers a request for God to forgive us in the same way that we have forgiven others who have harmed us (see Matt. 6:12). If there are those we have not forgiven when we ourselves pray for forgiveness, then practically speaking we are asking God not to restore a right relationship with us after we sin. To emphasize the importance of restoring broken relationships with our brothers and sisters, Jesus states that asking for God’s forgiveness for one’s own sins, all the while withholding forgiveness from someone else, is not only bizarre but hypocritical. We cannot possibly walk with God in true fellowship if we refuse to forgive others.” “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 Jn. 4:20,21 cf. 1 Jn. 2:6,9,10).
The act of unforgiveness always reveals significant problems and deep-seated issues in the one who will not forgive. Man’s natural response to sin committed against him, is clearly seen in the reaction of the king’s forgiven servant upon his seeing one who was financially indebted to him. Unforgiveness is to act in frustration, it is to act on anger and hatred. Unforgiveness is to act with only one’s own interests at heart, coupled with a lofty indifference toward others. This can in no way be a meritable response. As Christians we are to be gentle, meek and compassionate people, always thinking of others more than ourselves. Caring about others, being patient with others and doing everything we can to make sure our fellow man is loved by us as much as we love ourselves. Again, life is not about what is done to us, or what happens to us, but how we respond. As we all know this is a sinful world, and as Christians we are constantly being tested. There are many trials and tribulations which we must endure, but through them all we must love and forgive without hesitation, and without restriction. This must be the Christian’s response. Sinner’s will sin and haters will hate, but the Christian must, and will, love and forgive. What happens to us is not as important as how we respond. Love and forgiveness, compassion and understanding, grace and mercy, must hold sway over hatred and resentment, selfishness and ignorance, ruthlessness and vindictiveness. The spotlight of life is always trained upon ourselves. You cannot go to God pointing out the sins of others when God is the One Who has forgiven you all your sins. You especially cannot go to God pointing out the sins of your brethren when God has forgiven them all their sins. If you cannot justifiably go to God with it, then forgive and let go of others’ sins against you. God does not mention your sins, so why do some believers focus all their attention on the sins of others, as if they are somehow any better than those who have sinned against them. The choice as to whether or not you focus on sin and retribution, or love and forgiveness, is all yours, and as with any choice the responsibility is your own, and the consequences which follow are directly attributable to you. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love and forgiveness. When you feel you cannot ever get over what someone has done to you or said about you, remember the Lord and how He has forgiven you all your many sins, and then go and do likewise to your brother and fellow man. Stop rehearsing what they did to you, and start meditating on love and forgiveness “…the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (Jas. 5:11); “…be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (1 Pet. 3:8). Love and forgive. Be compassionate, be merciful and show God how much you love Him by being like Him. Follow in His footsteps, love and forgive all who have sinned against you and restore a right relationship with them. Do everything you can to put that relationship back in its rightful place, exactly where God wants it to be.
Love will conquer all. Don’t look at all the things in others you aren’t happy with, look at God, bathe in His love and beauty and then love as you are loved by Him. If you are expecting your fellow man to be perfect you will have a long wait. Be patient with the imperfections you see in others and forgive them their sins. Isn’t this what you ask of God for yourself? The father of the prodigal son reacted to his son’s return by commanding “…Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet” (Lk. 15:22). The prodigal son was not given a lower place in his relationship with his father, but was restored to the place he had before he sinned against him. “It is hardly necessary, perhaps, in such a parable, to press the symbolic interpretation of each minute detail; but in this instance the symbolism lies so near the surface that it is at least well to ask ourselves what meaning either earlier or later associations would lead the disciples to attach to them. The ‘best robe’ cannot well be other than the ‘garment of praise’ (see Isa. 61:3,10; Zech. 3:4,5; Rev. 3:18), the vesture of righteousness, the new life and immortality with which it is the desire of the penitent to be clothed upon; the ring, as the signet upon the right hand (see Gen. 41:42; Jer. 22:24, Jas. 2:2), must be the token of the special favour of the Giver, the seal of his ‘calling and election’; the shoes must answer to that ‘preparation’ or ‘readiness’ which comes from the Gospel of peace (see Eph. 6:15), and which makes him eager to do his work as a messenger who proclaims that Gospel to others, and which he need not lay aside (cf. Ex. 3:5) even when he treads on the ‘holy ground’ where man holds communion with God, the forgiven and restored son with the Eternal Father. Slaves went barefoot. Thus, we have here a threefold symbol of freedom and honor, restored, as the fruit of perfect reconciliation.” Forgiveness is not only the eradication of any thought of retribution, it is the act that prompts perfect reconciliation.
How much do you love God? Do you love God enough to forgive the worst sin your worst enemy ever committed against you? Do you love God enough to forgive those who have betrayed you, deeply hurt you to the point you feel you have been emotionally damaged? Do you love God enough to forgive those who have emotionally harmed those you love? Do you love God enough to restore a broken relationship, a marriage, even after years of separation? One lady has remarked: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. This is nothing but the result of wounded pride and a damaged ego, the fire of which is stoked with vindictiveness which, if allowed to run free, will always discount even the very thought of forgiveness being possible, let alone a restoration of the relationship. Holding on to what others have done to you and how badly they have made you feel, etc., is the very essence of what it is to be a very willing unforgiving person. “The reality of forgiveness is that…you control what comes next for YOU. Holding on to what others have done, only causes more misery for YOU.” Unforgiveness allows the sin committed against you to dictate your response. Forgiveness negates sin’s attempt to influence you in an unproductive manner. The sins of others can only have a negative influence over you until you choose to walk in the freedom that forgiveness brings. Again, what happens to you, what is done to you is not the most important thing in life. YOU MUST decrease. Your selfish attitude, which manifests itself in holding grudges against others and seeking to harm those who have harmed you, must end, and the LORD MUST increase in your life. Love, do not hate; forgive, do not be unforgiving; bless, do not curse; be gracious and merciful, not heartless and vengeful. No one is immune from sinning, and no one is immune from being sinned against. You either forgive and enjoy the freedom and joy it brings, or you refuse to forgive and live with the consequences of a hardened heart and a seared conscience for the rest of your life. How anyone has made you feel is not the issue when sin has been committed. The issue is forgiveness. It’s all about love and forgiveness. Life is all about what you do next, not what has happened to you. Life is all about the future, not the past. All love is concerned with is the present and the future, not the past. It’s not about what they did to you, but how you respond? Every person’s life is about what they have done, not what was done to them. You will be judged according to what you have done, not according to what others have done to you. You cannot blame anyone else for your sin. No one can make you sin, and no one is responsible for what you do, except yourself. People say, ‘Do you mean that after everything I endured, all the pain and the abuse I was put through, I am expected to forgive and love?’ Yes, dear Christian, that is precisely what you are expected to do, so welcome to the reality of what being a Christian is all about: LOVE! LOVE in the face of evil. LOVE in the face of sin. You cannot be a Christian without loving God with all that you are and have, and loving and forgiving your neighbour as yourself. The Christian life is about overcoming sin with love and forgiveness, of overcoming evil with good.
The Christian life is all about love and forgiveness: God’s love and forgiveness of you, and your love and forgiveness toward those who have sinned against you. If you don’t like it, then leave now, for you will never be a Christian until you know what it is to be loved of God and forgiven by God. “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord” (Jer. 9:24); “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). To really know God, love God and understand God is to know and exercise unconditional love and forgiveness of your fellow man. What’s done is done, the past cannot be changed, now, what will you do? Will you forgive, will you let bygones be bygones, or will you choose to allow sin to destroy a once blessed friendship or marriage? Does your love have limits? Is your forgiveness restricted by sin? The whole point to forgiveness is to restrict sin, not to allow the sins of others to restrict the full potential of God’s love in you. The sin of unforgiveness is restricting you from loving God with your life, and loving others the way God loves you. Are you happy to live a forgiving life in theory, but not when someone actually sins against you? The whole point of forgiveness is to show love by forgiving sin, not allowing your actions to be restricted by it. LOVE MUST PREVAIL IN THE BELIEVER, OR THERE SIMPLY IS NO POINT TO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Forgiveness must be paramount no matter the sin committed against us. The issue is love, not sin. If there is any being on this earth that you would expect to love and forgive you your sin, it is a Christian. Love and forgiveness is the very essence, the core ingredient in being a Christian and it comes from God’s having loved us. We love God because He loved us first. Forgiveness is all about others loving us because we loved them first. The Christian loves and forgives others because God loved and forgave us first. We forgive our fellow man because God has forgiven us. That is how the Lord God expects His people to respond to sin. He expects us to forgive other’s sins just as He has forgiven our sins against Him. God does not expect us to make excuses as to why we should not forgive, or because we are finding it ‘difficult’ to forgive. God expects those whom He has forgiven to forgive others. “Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?” (Matt. 18:33). God forgives His people to the point of full reconciliation. True forgiveness is condemnation free. Anything short of this is not forgiveness. Anything short of desiring peace and love to prevail is not forgiveness, but a mere selfish desire for one’s own ‘peace’. Unforgiveness—which includes forgiveness any other way but God’s way—clearly displays an unwillingness to show mercy and compassion as we have been shown mercy and compassion by our Father.
Sadly, many live their lives congruent with the negative feelings they have allowed a relationship to leave them with. This negativity is in reality not what has happened to you, it is not something which is beyond your control, but a decision you have made. The idea is not to suck on the lemons we are given in life which sour our attitude, but turn those lemons into lemonade and drink heartily. Sometimes we take a bad experience with someone and conveniently use it to our perceived advantage, but leave the other guy behind drowned in a pool of our unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is not something which happens to you, it is something which you have acted on. Unforgiveness is like being bucked off a horse, and then laying there on the ground crying and complaining about it the rest of your life, instead of getting up, brushing the dirt off yourself, patting the horse and then getting right back on again. Many actually cling to all the negativity of being sinned against by others, choosing to act like victims for the rest of their lives! Justifying their hatred and ill-feeling toward others because of what they have suffered. ‘I am a victim, therefore, I have a right to be angry and unforgiving’. This is nothing but evil. The idea is to stop acting like a victim! Stop idolizing yourself as a victim, and have the courage to forgive those who have sinned against you and walk in victory over sin, unforgiveness and hate. Hate and unforgiveness are always on the offensive, always on the attack so that they never have to be defensive. Hate and unforgiveness are indefensible. Many use unforgiveness as a way of feeling superior to others. They chop off others’ heads in order to make themselves feel tall. The only life of superiority over sin is one of love and forgiveness, anything less than this and you are nothing but one of the hoi polloi doing only what comes naturally to all fallen creatures. Is that the life you envisioned for yourself upon becoming a Christian? Was a life of unforgiveness and hatred your motivation to become a Christian? Those unwilling to forgive console themselves by justifying their unforgiveness with the pain they still feel. ‘I want to forgive them, but I can’t because I still feel hurt. I want to forgive them, but I would be a hypocrite because I still feel hurt by their sin.’ This is ridiculous, counter-productive thinking. Forgiveness is not based on how you feel, but on obedience to God. Forgiving others while still feeling the pain of their sin is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the forgiven-by-God Christian refusing to forgive his fellow man! Forgiveness does not come from feelings, but from a genuine, deep, heartfelt desire to love and obey God. The irony of people waiting for feelings to change before they forgive, waiting for feelings of forgiveness to come in the midst of their unforgiveness is not lost. Fear of exposing oneself to more hurt in the future by reconciling a relationship, or marriage, plays a huge part in the evil of unforgiveness. Some people go on the rest of their lives living this way because of feelings and fear. Feelings follow forgiveness and forgiveness casts out all fear. Forgiveness reconciles while unforgiveness wrecks. Forgiveness is a decision based on God’s love for you and forgiveness of you. There is no fear in love. Forgiveness is a desire to bless others as you have been blessed by God. To love God is to obey God is to be like God.
CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE, and you will never want to cling to negative feelings again, nor will your life continue to be obstructed by them. As the lyrics go, “Change your heart, it will astound you”. God’s people have been made new creatures in Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10). Being new creatures we behave differently to how we used to. We reject a lifestyle of unforgiveness by loving our fellow man through forgiveness. What God wants in His people is for love and forgiveness to reign supreme in their hearts and lives. God is love. Christians are children of love. Christians are to love. Get it? Everything that happens to us should be processed through the filter of love and forgiveness so that our love and forgiveness will go far beyond just being pretty little words, and nice, appropriate things to say, and become what is actually, genuinely, willingly practiced in our lives to the glory of God. Do not go by your feelings, but be guided and led by the Word of God. You have sinned against God, and God forgives you, so when others sin against you, forgive them. Don’t wait for feelings, act on the command of God to love and forgive as you are loved and forgiven by Him. Practice love and forgiveness and you will be amazed at the results. God does not command you to have feelings, He commands you to forgive. Know who you are and be who you are: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32 cf. Matt. 6:14; 18:35; Mk. 11:25). Surely, we who have been forgiven by God for the sake of Christ, can also forgive our fellow men for His sake. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:13). “…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). We shall never succeed in forbearing one another in love without lowliness, meekness and longsuffering. If your feelings are in contrast to the Word of God, obey the Word of God and deny any feelings which would encourage unforgiveness in your heart toward anyone. STOP allowing yourself to be deceived by your desperately wicked heart and START being the Christian you are supposed to be, love freely and forgive fully any and all who sin against you. Step into the world of love and understanding, of mercy and forgiveness and leave the past behind. Even though this goes against the grain of our sinful natures, it cannot be wrong. There is nothing wrong with loving and forgiving people who have sinned against you. There is never a time when you should not love and forgive. If you are a Christian it is the natural thing to do. Obeying God can never be wrong. You will not lose anything by forgiving others except sinful, fleshly desires that can only ruin you, and, in turn, hurt others. Your life is what you make it, so don’t let others make it for you. Don’t allow sin—your own, or that of others—to dictate how you will run your life, but obey God at all times and live in love. Seek for reconciliation, restore relationships by forgiveness rather than making way for sin to destroy them. DO SOMETHING! Don’t just stand idly by and watch sin ruin relationships, even those you don’t want. Don’t allow a dictatorship of sin to influence the way you live your life. Love and forgive your fellow man. Forgiveness is not some theory, forgiveness is ACTION. FORGIVENESS IS LOVE IN ACTION! Act on God’s Word and start being serious about your Christian walk! Big deal if someone has sinned against you and hurt you, etc., what about your sins against God that took the death of His precious Son to redeem you from! When someone hurts you think about your sins against God. Think about how God has forgiven you and loved you, and then go and do the same. Do not miss out on giving the love that God has given you to others.
The important thing in all this is how does God make you feel? Does God make you feel like hating, and not forgiving those who have sinned against you? When dealing with others, is your conduct toward them based on your relationship with God, or slavishness to self? Do you act in accord with how they treat you, or do you treat others how you would like to be treated by them. Do you treat others relative to how much you claim to love God? Does God’s love and forgiveness toward you inspire you to not love your neighbor by not forgiving them all their sins against you, or does God’s amazing, incredible, unfathomable, unconditional love and forgiveness of you inspire you to love and forgive others as God has forgiven you? Do you want to love and forgive others? Ask yourself that question and give yourself an honest answer. If you find you really don’t want to show God’s love in you by forgiving even that person, as God has forgiven you, ask yourself, ‘Why won’t I forgive them?’ What has been done to you that is more powerful than God’s love and forgiveness of you? There are many people who do forgive the sins of others against them, however, for most of them, there is one person in their lives whom they have chosen not to forgive. Is there anyone in your life, dear Christian, that you know you have not forgiven according to God’s Standard? If there is, why will you not forgive them? Unforgiveness is a far greater sin than anything which is not forgiven. Have you decided within yourself that what they did or said is unforgiveable? This is precisely what we are claiming when we decide not to forgive someone there sin against us. If you say their sin is not unforgiveable then ask yourself ‘Why won’t I fully and freely forgive them?’. Are they a Christian, too? If so, why will you not forgive them the sin which you know God has forgiven? Have you abandoned a friend? Have you left a wife, or husband, because of your selfish, unloving and unforgiving attitude? Are you still brooding over the past? Do the bad memories still, after all these years, stoke the fire of your unforgiveness, or has the love of God in you extinguished that blaze? Anything less than full, free and reconciling forgiveness is a dead giveaway that you have not let go of ill feeling and bitterness. Any and every excuse not to forgive is an unsupportable and inexcusable smokescreen erected to hide your bitterness, resentment and hatred toward another. I mean let’s lay our cards on the table shall we. Let us be brutally honest with ourselves. Shine God’s Word on yourself, and have the courage to listen to what the Spirit of God is saying to you. Not wanting to forgive a person God’s way, reveals, believe it or not, an inner hatred for and bitterness toward the person and a predetermined, resolute decision to in some way retaliate for their sin against you. All unforgiveness is retaliation. “Just as a heart that is full of anger cannot be full of love, cannot speak love, and cannot be tender (see Eph. 4:15, 29, 31, 32), an unforgiving heart cannot experience the emotional and spiritual freedom that God had intended for His children (see Jas. 5:15-16) and is living contrary to God’s will (see Matt. 6:14-15; Mk. 11:25-26).” Unforgiveness is punishing your neighbour, not loving your neighbour. It reveals a desire to exact revenge to the point that it will satisfy your willingness to bow to your morbid sense of justice—in light of God’s merciful forgiveness of you—rather than to love and compassion. If all you find yourself doing is making up excuses for your unforgiveness, then it is quite obvious you are unwilling to forgive. In light of this, what does God’s forgiveness really mean to you?
If you are a Christian you MUST forgive everyone everything! Are you offended by this? Do you respond with opposition? If so, who are you? Are you a Christian? Do you love God enough to fully renew a relationship with one who has repented of what they’ve said to you, or how they have mistreated you in the past? You have serious problems if you do not. There is no point surrounding yourself with the sweet smelling good deeds you have done to others, when the stench of unforgiveness pervades your soul. There is no point in consoling yourself that you are a really nice person by how you are with others, whilst refusing to forgive that one person who sinned against you. When faced with the facts about God’s loving you and forgiving you there should be no hesitation in the true believer to fully love and freely forgive others. The love of God and the freedom to forgive is in every Christian, it’s there right now so why will you not act on it, by acting with it and forgiving the ones who have wronged you. There are people on this earth who are not even Christians that have forgiven monstrous sins committed against them, or a loved one, by strangers, and are you telling me as a Spirit-filled Christian that you ‘cannot’ forgive a repentant fellow believer who has actually asked you to forgive them? You can’t forgive one whom God has forgiven? You cannot forgive one for whom Christ died? “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn. 3:16). That is how much the brethren should love each other—to the point of laying down our very lives for each other. That you are willing to condemn, and hold a brother in Christ in contempt, whom God has forgiven, and for whom Christ His Son died puts you on a par with the wicked servant in Matthew 18. You cannot forgive one whom you will be spending eternity with? Tell me, you who refuse to forgive, do you plan to ignore them in Heaven, too? No? Then why will you not forgive and live in harmony with them now?
People excuse their ‘difficulty in forgiving’ by blurting out, ‘Well, I’m not God!’ WELL THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT!! Imagine God forgiving like some people forgive. Forgiving to varying degrees, with conditions attached, being a respecter of persons, etc., holding grudges and always dredging up the past and complaining about what you did. Imagine God not fully forgiving the sins of His people for whom Christ died. Who then could ever be saved? “If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psa. 130:3). What if God took your approach to others’ sins against you, in relation to the sins you have committed against Him? Would you prefer that to God’s loving and forgiving you His way? No? Then why do you view the sins of others against you through the eyes of cold, hard and vindictive justice and not through eyes of love and mercy, grace and forgiveness. God forgives His people so why don’t you! God does not mark the iniquities of His people, so why do you keep an account of them? Simply because no one of us is perfect, does not excuse imperfection. If it did, then Jesus need not have died as a sacrifice for His people. The Lord Jesus says: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Strive for perfection, dear Christian. Be loving, for God loves you. Be forgiving, for God has forgiven you. Those Christians who treat others like the king’s servant in Matthew 18, who judge and mete out punishment which varies from restricting their kindness and love to a brother in Christ, to outright ostracization rather than forgiving them wholly, are a sad lot who need the prayers of real Christians who are serious about their love for God. The unforgiving Christian is a disgrace to the name Christian. Imagine unashamedly not forgiving a brother or sister in Christ for whom Christ laid down His very life! Imagine holding a fellow believer to ransom for whom God holds no condemnation. Sadly, many whom God does not condemn are condemned by their unforgiveness of equally uncondemned brethren. These things ought not to be so.
Unforgiveness is an unmitigated sin against another. Unforgiveness in others toward us is no reason why we should not forgive them their unforgiveness. Any sin, including the sin of unforgiveness, should prompt the Christian to forgive. Sin should not be used as a license to not forgive. There is never any justification in not forgiving the sins of others against us. Sin is not to be used as a reason not to forgive, for sin is what must be forgiven. All sin committed against us must be forgiven by us. The sins of others against us should be seen as the release valve, not the stop valve, for our forgiveness. We are not freed from forgiving simply because we are not forgiven. We are not freed from the obligation to forgive because someone has sinned against us, for sin is the reason for forgiveness. It is the starting pistol which gets our love and forgiveness going. Upon whom do you desire to model your life? Men or God? Do you repay evil for evil, or do you recompense evil with good. Do you love your enemies or hate your enemies? Do you forgive your brethren or hate your brethren by not forgiving them. Do you actually even care how you conduct your life? Does obedience to God actually mean something to you, or are you just playing religious games with yourself? As Christians we must forgive those who refuse to forgive us, but this does not make their sin of unforgiveness any less horrible than what it is, it just means that you refuse to allow your life to be controlled, or even slightly influenced, by another’s unforgiveness toward you. When all is said and done, unforgiveness is nothing but unwillingness to forgive. It is sin. Unforgiveness is a far greater sin than any sin one is unwilling to forgive. Amazingly, there are quite extraordinary stories of genuine forgiveness by those who do not even believe in God. Marriages restored to a passionate love that has never been greater, family relationships re-established, fathers reunited with their children, children reunited with their mothers. Families and friendships restored, people enjoying the glory of what it is to forgive and love again WHO DO NOT EVEN KNOW GOD! Meanwhile, many Christians immaturely, selfishly languish alone nurturing past hurt, and cultivating bitterness and resentment. You poor darling little victims! O how terrible it must be to have been sinned against. O, what must it be like to have been sinned against as badly as you have been sinned against! I wonder if God realizes just how hurt you really are!! I do not mean to sound heartless, but I say these things in an effort to show the unforgiving believer just how implausible, unreasonable and groundless their unforgiveness is, in light of the profound fact they are forgiven a multitude of sins by God. No one has been sinned against more than God. How unreasonable is the Christian who has been forgiven by God to even think of not forgiving others, especially fellow Christians, who have been forgiven by God. Choose to love and forgive, start acting upon the love and forgiveness of God toward you, and show it to others, and you will NEVER regret it! Walk in the way of love, and you will no longer stand in the way of forgiveness.