LOVE AND FORGIVENESS (PART 11)
Perhaps the greatest example of forgiveness, aside from God’s forgiveness toward His people, is that of Joseph. “One of the most beautiful examples of a forgiving spirit is found in the Book of Genesis. ‘And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. 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’ (Gen. 50:15-21). Despite being the victim of jealousy, evil intentions, malicious plotting, and selfish disregard, Joseph had an attitude of forgiveness that is uncommon and hard for many of us to imagine. By responding in this way to new hurts, he demonstrated that he was a godly man who understood how to let go of resentment and grab hold of forgiveness. If we refuse to forgive, we can expect to go through painful consequences: We will have difficulty dealing with the wrong done to us. Instead of releasing it to the Lord, we’ll rehearse the offense and relive the pain. Resentment will take root in our heart and mind, allowing bitterness to grow. Negativity will begin to affect other areas of our life, such as relationships, emotions, attitudes, and even physical health. Then feelings of discouragement will rob us of joy and contentment. We may look successful to the world, but deep inside, Christ’s peace is absent. A build up of ill feelings will start damaging our emotional health, which in turn hampers our ability to love others and accept love in return. Eventually despair will set in. The inner turmoil may become so great that we might frantically resort to drugs, alcohol, affairs, pleasure, or excessive devotion to a career in an effort to find relief. The good news is that this downward spiral can be stopped at any point along the way by choosing to forgive.” Comfort those who have sinned against you and speak kindly to them.
One person tells of their experience with unforgiveness, and gives some good advice for those who have had issues with it. “For a long time, I couldn’t see a way out of the resentment and unforgiveness that I held in my heart. There are many people who feel completely justified in not forgiving the person, or people, who wronged them. Understandably so, their trust was betrayed or they were violated in some way and feel that they have the right to hold this person, or people, accountable forever…However, after years of learning who I am and discovering who I want to become, I have learned that holding onto these things only causes me to die a slow, painful and miserable death. You might be wondering, ‘why so extreme’? Here’s why: I recently heard someone explain this and it has stuck with me ever since. You can be a very healthy person with a seemingly good life, but as you choose to focus on the awful (negative) things that people have done to you, you are not living life to the fullest. You are giving away precious hours, days, weeks, months and years of your life to your ‘unforgettable’ past. You’re not actually living your life with joy. You’re simply existing until the inevitable happens! Think about it! How does it make you feel inside to think about the things that have had a negative impact on your life? You feel heavy inside, oppressed, sad, your stomach is in knots and you feel lonely. I am living proof that your pain does not have to guide the rest of your life. As painful as things may be, spending the majority of your thoughts blaming others…will eventually cause serious physical issues and diseases and could possibly lead to an early death. In an article released by CNN in 2011, A young college student was hospitalized for physical issues brought on from stress and anxiety through bullying from his peers. He said that when he forgave them, he felt it in his body and left the hospital three days later and declares, ‘If I hadn’t forgiven them, I’d be dead’. I refuse to use my pain for my own self-pity. I refuse to view the world as an awful place, full of perverts, abusers and rapists. I refuse to be a victim for the rest of my life. Did bad stuff happen to me? Yes! Did it hurt me and affect my childhood? Yes! Has it affected my marriage and parenting as well? Yes! So, now what? Am I going to let what other’s have done to me continue destroying my life? NO! Am I going to allow my life to be consumed by hate, bitterness, revenge, or resentment? NO! What good would come out of any of that??? Absolutely NONE! After something happens to you and you’ve had a chance to heal from it, your life is your responsibility to take charge of, learn from and move forward! Let’s just be real for a minute. The reason why most of us can’t move past years of our issues is because we have made a habit out of feeling sorry for ourselves. I’m including myself in this! I can tell you that after a certain point, you have to decide that you’re not that person anymore and take steps to move beyond your former self. You have to decide whether or not your future is better served by keeping those emotions, or letting them go. You create your own life by the thoughts you think and the actions you take! ‘…as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…’ (Prov. 23:7). He is not the man his mouth speaks or declares him to be, but what his heart thinks; which is discovered by his looks and actions, and by which he is to be judged of, and not by his words. Life is too short to hold onto the things people have done to us.” You can be self-centered, or you can be God-centered. You either live God’s way, or you live your way. You can forgive, or you can choose not to forgive. The responsibility is yours, the consequences will be eternal.
HOW YOU WANT GOD TO FORGIVE YOU IS PRECISELY HOW GOD EXPECTS YOU TO FORGIVE OTHERS! Your desire to be forgiven is your mandate to forgive. The fact that a true Christian is forgiven comes with an undeniable obligation to forgive. There is no reason why the forgiven should not forgive. Now how do you think your requests for God to forgive you sound to Him as you continue living in unforgiveness toward others? What do you think it sounds like to God when you profess your love for Him, pray to Him and worship Him as the God of love, mercy and forgiveness, when you refuse to forgive others as He has forgiven you? What do you think it sounds like to God when you profess your love for Him, but choose to angrily hold on to a vengeful resentment of others? Such hypocrisy is literally playing with fire. Unforgiveness by a Christian is among the most, if not the most, heinous of sins. It is quite literally a horror. “To refuse to forgive someone else and then to ask God for forgiveness is a kind of spiritual schizophrenia. You are asking God to give you what you are unwilling to give to someone else.” Unforgiveness is acting opposite to how you want God to treat you. Unforgiveness in a Christian is hypocrisy at its worst. “A Christian who refuses to forgive, who chooses to harbor bitterness, who lives in anger and bitterness, that person is bound to be miserable and messed up. As strange as it may sound, there is such a thing as an ‘unforgiven’ Christian. This is not a statement about ultimate destinies. To be ‘unforgiven’ in this sense means that the channel of God’s grace is blocked from the human side. In particular, it means that you have chosen to hang on to your bitterness and to forfeit your daily walk with the Lord. You would rather be angry than joyful. You have chosen resentment over peace. Your grudges have become more important to you than the daily blessing of God. If God has already forgiven your sins 100% by the blood of Jesus Christ, how dare you be unforgiving to someone who hurt you? That’s really the issue. How dare you be unforgiving after what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross? Such a person will be miserable until they forgive from the heart (see Matt. 18:21-35).” Indeed, how dare you not forgive a fellow believer for whom Christ also died. Those who are not miserable in their unforgiveness, but are enjoying life without a spark of conscience, need a complete overhaul in their lives. Some Christians have so seared their consciences, and hardened their hearts that they are completely insensitive to the fact a spirit of unforgiveness resides in their souls. Only a miracle from God in their lives will open them up to this fact, cause them to face themselves and then lead them to finally forgive as they are forgiven by God.
Unforgiveness is unforgiveable. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14,15). “A crucial part of Jesus’ Kingdom message was the announcement of forgiveness. Many times, before Jesus would heal someone, He would announce their sins forgiven. He called His disciples to forgive others no matter how many times they had been wronged, ‘Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven’ (Matt. 18:21,22 cf. Lk. 17:3,4). Peter was greatly struck with what Christ had just said about reconciliation of enemies; and he wanted to know what limits were to be imposed on his generosity, especially, it might be, if the offender made no reparation for his offence, and acknowledged not his wrong doing.” True forgiveness has no limits. “‘My brother’ (as ver. 15, fellow disciple, neighbour). Till seven times? Peter doubtless thought that he was unusually liberal and generous in proposing such a measure of forgiveness. Seven is the number of completeness and plurality, and our Lord had used it in giving his sentence about forgiveness: ‘And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee’, etc. (Lk. 17:4).” Seventy times seven “symbolizes boundlessness. The 70 times 7 expression is symbolic for infinity; Christians are called to forgive an infinite number of times because that is the number of times they are forgiven by God; when a Christian fails to forgive, it becomes inconsistent with the infinite forgiveness of God. Some rabbis had fixed a limit of forgiving only three times from an erroneous interpretation of Amos 1:3; 2:1, ‘For three transgressions…and for four’, etc.; but the usual precept enjoined forgiveness of three offences only, drawing the line here, and having no pity for a fourth offence. The Jews were very fond of defining and limiting moral obligations, as if they could be accurately prescribed by number. Christ demolishes this attempt to define by law the measure of grace. The words of Matthew 18:15 had obviously told on the minds of the disciples, and had roused them to question with themselves. But they could not, all at once, take in the truth that the ‘commandment’ was ‘exceeding broad’. Surely, they thought, there must be some limit to this way of dealing with the brother who has sinned against us? And the sacred number suggested itself as the natural limit.” So much for those who think themselves so gracious and boast about having given someone a ‘second chance’. Dear Christian THERE IS NO LIMIT, no restrictions at all to how often you will be called on to forgive or how much you are to forgive, and we should not search for excuses to support our sometimes lacklustre desire to forgive again and again and again, “…Until seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22). Let love reign and forgiveness will come easy.
“Jesus demanded His followers forgive not only the personal offences of their neighbors, but also their outstanding financial and social debts. Within this ministry of forgiveness, Jesus states that one cannot refuse to forgive others and still hope to bask in God’s forgiveness. It does not help you to have one artery clear for blood to come rushing to your heart if the artery going out from your heart is blocked. A heart attack is still inevitable. You cannot stay alive by simply taking in one big breath of air and refusing to exhale. You cannot climb a tree and expect to remain up high if you cut off the branch you are sitting on. Forgiveness works the same way. You cannot expect to receive God’s forgiveness unless you are an open vessel through which His mercy can flow on out to others. A blocked artery that refuses to allow blood to be pumped through will only cause heart failure. If we think we have accepted God’s forgiveness but are not forgiving others their debts, spiritually, we are as good as dead.” If you find yourself looking for excuses, and desperately searching for reasons to exempt you from forgiveness and thus not have to live with that person or ever even see them again, you are of all people the saddest. You are spiritually bankrupt. Seeking to justify one’s unforgiveness is, perhaps, even worse than the unforgiveness itself, especially when one attempts to twist the Scriptures to justify one’s sin of unforgiveness. You do not know which spirit you are of. If you think there is a Scripture that will exonerate you from the need to fully, unconditionally, love and forgive that person, to be merciful to that person to the nth degree, that must be some bible you’re reading. There is nothing in the Word of God that condones unforgiveness under any circumstances. The principle of Christianity is to love God with all your being, and to love your neighbour as yourself. Love your enemies by forgiving your enemies and love the brethren by forgiving the brethren. “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God…” (1 Pet. 2:17). The Christian life does not lead one to forgiveness it is a symbol of forgiveness and love toward your fellow man. The Christian life is a testimony of the love and forgiveness God has given you, and commands you give to others. “And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 Jn. 4:21). “And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 Jn. 3:23).
Some people are honest enough with themselves that they do wonder whether they have genuinely forgiven another. But what is it that has prompted them to ask such a question? What exactly is it that has given rise for them to doubt the genuineness of their perceived forgiveness? Their problem with forgiving others is exacerbated when they react with a head-in-the-sand attitude upon realising they have not forgiven someone as they are forgiven by God. There is no use asking yourself the question, if you are not going to do anything about it. Why bother waking up when all you really want to do is sleep. Forgiveness is not some guessing game. Questions like, ‘Have I forgiven them?’ or ‘Have I forgiven them enough?’ show a lack of understanding as to what real forgiveness is. But this seems to me quite puzzling, for how can a Christian thank God for His glorious, merciful all-encompassing, unconditional forgiveness and yet have a problem understanding what real forgiveness is and whether or not they have truly forgiven. If you have not forgiven a person the exact same way God has forgiven you, you are currently committing the sin of unforgiveness. True forgiveness starts with love which is expressed not only in words, but also in actions. If there are no corresponding actions to your forgiveness, then you have not forgiven. Unforgiveness is unlike many other sins in that it is a perpetual sin. Every minute you do not forgive, you are committing the sin of unforgiveness. The sin of unforgiveness remains active and ongoing in your day-to-day life until you choose to stop it by the only way you can stop it: love and forgiveness. Real forgiveness does not merely wipe the slate clean, it throws the slate out altogether! Genuine forgiveness does not keep an account of sins committed against one, it abolishes them altogether. Forgiveness is always on the side of the sinner. The essence of forgiveness is graciously, humbly and meekly putting others before yourself. Have you ever erased something on a blackboard, or with an eraser some writing? The goal in erasing something is to make it completely disappear, to leave no sign of its previous existence, and nothing less than this will suffice when it comes to the matter of forgiveness. Have you ever rigorously erased ink from a page? You tenaciously just keep going at it until it’s all gone, right. THAT is how we are to approach the sins of others against us: with the same rigour, the same intent, the same resolute determination we have in erasing an error. Erase the errors of others against you by loving and forgiving them. Be determined to wipe the sins people have committed against you off the map, and leave only love on the page.
Forgiveness is always in your best interests. When you have properly erased something, nothing remains. It is wiped out and it is wiped out for good! Forgiveness erases the sins of others against you, and joins hands with God’s forgiveness of them if they are also Christians. To refuse to forgive a brother or sister in Christ is to refuse to hold hands with God. The only way the memory of what you have erased can return is if you write it out again! God has wiped out the sins of His people FOREVER, and shall remember them no more (see Isa. 43:25; Heb. 8:12). There is now no condemnation for God’s people (see Rom. 8:1), and God will never refer to their sins, or sinfulness, ever again. God will never again condemn His forgiven people. Saved people are forgiven people, and God’s forgiven people will never again be unsaved, or unforgiven. “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back” (Isa. 38:17). “Hezekiah the king had repented of his sin against God and had been forgiven by Him. When God saves a man He delivers his life from the pit of destruction. In addition He does something about their sins. He deliberately casts their sins behind His back. In this way God is conveying the truth that those sins are no longer before Him; He no longer looks at them; He no longer sees the penitent as being guilty of them. He will not bring those sins back against them again.” How do I forgive? How am I expected to forgive? Forgive as God forgives you. Step out of your comfort zone and love and forgive others as God loves and has forgiven you. Cast the sins of those who have wronged you behind your back, so that their sins are no longer within your sight, so that you can and will no longer look upon them and remind yourself of them and hold the one who sinned against you as guilty. To forgive is to dissociate the sin from the sinner. To not forgive is a refusal to forget. Once you have cast the sins of others behind you do not look upon the one who sinned against you as guilty any longer, and never raise the issue of that sin or sins again with them or anyone else, and then love them as yourself. Do this and you will have Biblically forgiven your neighbor as God has forgiven you. Nothing less than this can qualify as true forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the expunction of all sin committed against you. If sin has properly been forgiven there is nothing to remain upset about, nothing to be bitter about if you have truly forgiven another with the same level of forgiveness with which God has forgiven you. This is so unreal to the average person that its very concept is unimaginable. However, the fact that it is Scriptural verifies its reality and that it already is a very real thing in the life of many Christians. Forgiveness means no condemnation remains toward the sinner, not in word, thought or action. Forgiveness is 100% voluntary love. True forgiveness comes from the heart, and is an expression of what you sincerely want. ‘I want to forgive that person’ means ‘I refuse to permit their sin to adversely affect my relationship with them and I will be and shall remain active in not allowing it to’. Proper forgiveness, the only true forgiveness there is, forgives the sinner and demonstrates, or proves, that forgiveness by restoring the relationship to the point prior to when the sin was committed. That is when you know you are being real with yourself and honest with God. People ask, ‘How do I forgive?’ Forgive like God forgives you. Forgive the way you know God has forgiven you – 100%. True forgiveness has no restrictions, no caveats, no limits, no lines drawn which you refuse to cross, and no barriers erected which you are determined the one who has sinned against you will not traverse. Forgiveness is to the practical advantage of the one being forgiven and a blessing to the forgiver. Forgiveness is freedom. Freedom to love your neighbour as yourself. Christians are forgiven by grace, and it is by grace that they forgive others. The joy that comes from being forgiven by God always expresses itself in loving and forgiving others. It cannot be expressed by unforgiveness. No one can ever earn forgiveness—either from God or man—it is a gift. Forgiveness does not wait for any attempt by anyone to make up for their sin against you, it is far too impatient for that. Forgiveness has no pride. Forgiveness loves to exercise itself. The Christian has his clarion call and it is God Who is blowing the trumpet for all His people to forgive one another right NOW! The longer you hesitate the more difficult it will be to forgive others as you are forgiven. The longer you hesitate the harder your heart will become, and the more ground you will concede to bitterness and hatred. Now is the time to forgive, not tomorrow or the next day, but right now! You have no guarantee that you will ever want to forgive that person again. Do it now. How can you possibly love God by not forgiving others? How can you consciously, willingly continue to walk in unforgiveness when all the while you bask in God’s forgiveness of you. “I am least forgiving when I forget how much God has forgiven me.” Do you strangle those who have sinned against you, or are you merciful toward them and forgive them their sin? Are you the king, or are you the servant?
Dear Christian if you have had a re-awakening, if you have come to realize the reality of your miserable state of being unwilling to forgive, please do not ever think it is too late to forgive. This book has been written not to condemn you, but to help you see that you must forgive, you are expected to forgive, for you are commanded to forgive if you are forgiven by God. The Christian life is one of love and forgiveness, of mercy and compassion, of gentleness and meekness, of grace and humility. Do not reason within yourself that ‘It’s been many years now since that person sinned against me, they’ve probably forgotten it all by now, we’ve both moved on’. Moreover, it is utterly useless to say to God, ‘I forgive them now’ and not back up that forgiveness, not prove that forgiveness by going to the person and telling them of your forgiveness and then getting together with that person with the goal of fully restoring your relationship with them. Every marriage is worth saving, and all marriages can be saved when love and forgiveness prevails. Just like faith, forgiveness is not real unless it is accompanied by corresponding action. Forgiveness wants love to reign supreme in a relationship, not maintain a distance between the people involved. There is nothing sociable, or Christian, in distancing yourself from others through the sin of unforgiveness. As the Christian distances himself from his sins forgiven by God, they, likewise, need to distance themselves from other’s sins towards them by forgiving them their sins, thereby, drawing closer to God and the person they have forgiven. To receive God’s forgiveness, and profusely, gratefully praise Him for it, and yet not forgive others as God has forgiven you, is to not walk in love. Praise to God for His forgiveness is incomplete and disingenuous when we refuse to forgive others. To not forgive is to not walk with God. Forgiveness is obedience to God and obedience to God is loving God and your neighbour. Many seriously deluded people have insisted on forging for themselves a new Christianity, one which includes unforgiveness as a legitimate expression of love. Your Bible studies may be going along fine, your prayer times may well be rich and praise-filled, your knowledge and understanding of the doctrines of the Gospel of the grace of God may well be increasing in its accuracy on a daily basis, but what does it all really mean if you are not fully walking in wholehearted love and forgiveness toward others.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am NOTHING. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me NOTHING. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth…” (1 Cor. 13:1-8). Love never fails, therefore, what comes from true love never fails, it is never wrong, but always right. If you have love you have peace, if you have love and peace you cannot but be a forgiving person. If you have not love you have not forgiveness. If you have not forgiveness you have not love. If you have not love and forgiveness you are NOTHING. A man who says he is a Christian, but does not forgive as he is forgiven—unconditionally—is as much a Christian as the one who does not believe the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. A man who practices a lifestyle which precludes love and forgiveness for his neighbour in his daily walk with God is a strongly deluded person. Nothing is of any profit if you have not love. No matter what the situation, or circumstance, “love always has a place”. Love and forgiveness are never where they should not be. Who would not welcome love? Who would not welcome forgiveness? Why not love? Why not forgive? Why allow yourself to be puffed up, why allow yourself to be easily provoked when love and forgiveness are commanded of you by God? Imagine not loving the subject of love and forgiveness. Imagine these beautiful words not being music to your ears. Imagine hastily skipping over verses of Scripture which deal with loving and forgiving your neighbour and brethren. And yet there are Christians today who would prefer to ignore the obligation to love and forgiveness, to sidestep the Lord’s command in order to keep their selfish lifestyle of unforgiveness alive and well. They virtually do not want to know because they do not really care about anyone or anything except themselves and the people they perceive are, or will be, beneficial to them, and having a ‘happy’ life. Woe be unto the Christian who does not revel in loving and forgiving others, particularly their brethren.
Primarily, forgiveness first has to do with the will rather than the emotions, and an unwillingness to forgive is willingly allowing sin to block the walkway of love. To not forgive is to denounce love. To not forgive is the antithesis of love, it is to turn your back on everything a Christian stands for, on everything you claim to be. To not forgive is to live contrary to the Christian life. To be a Christian and yet not forgive is like a soccer player being unwilling to kick the ball. For a Christian not to forgive is nothing short of being a full-blown hypocrite! Unforgiveness is assisting evil in grieving the Holy Spirit. Unforgiveness gives place to Satan and those things which come from your sinful nature, and suffocates the new man created in Christ. Unforgiveness can only come from a person’s own sinfulness. Just like forgiveness, unforgiveness comes from the will. No one who has ever sinned against you can be blamed for your unforgiveness toward them. No sin is so great that cannot be forgiven. A person’s sin against you is not the problem, it is not what is causing you to abide in unforgiveness, but only your unloving attitude. What was done to you is not the problem, but only how you are responding to it. To respond in anger and malicious thought is simply not the Christian way. Responding with anger is not walking in love or with love. Anger takes you in the opposite direction to love and leads only to the bitter state of unforgiveness. Anger and hatred fuel unforgiveness. Choose to walk in love and you will soon find yourself forgiving from the heart. The problem with believers who do not forgive is they always put themselves first, they always put their feelings first, they always put what happened to them first ahead of God and how lovingly and forgivingly He treats His people. How can we go from being beneficiaries of God’s love and forgiveness to being creatures more concerned with what was done to us, or said against us, than with walking in the love and mercy of God because of the forgiveness of God. Love is a two-way street you cannot expect to receive it if you have no intention of giving it. You cannot rationally expect to be the beneficiary of God’s love for you and God’s forgiveness of you, if you refuse to walk in that same love, with the same merciful attitude toward your fellow man. The loved love and the forgiven forgive.
No one can force you to not forgive. There is no sin, in and of itself, which can stop the Christian from forgiving others, except their own sins of selfishness, pride, hatred and bitterness. No evil performed against you can force you to respond in like manner. Sin is always a choice, it never happens without your consent, without the support of your own will. No matter how you look at it, doing even that which you say you did not want to do, is granting consent to sin. It happens in the blink of an eye, it is so fast that we are convinced we did not want to do that, but the fact you did it shows conclusively that it was exactly what you wanted to do. ‘I didn’t mean to do that, I didn’t mean to say that’, have nothing to do with the reality that you did it, you said it! So, too, unforgiveness is no accident, which means you are fully responsible for it. No one is ever innocent of being unforgiving. Unwillingness to forgive is not made up of love, but of nothing but evil. Unforgiveness is your problem, you are the underlying cause of it and the only way to rid yourself of it and replace it with loving forgiveness toward all is to deal with it Biblically. No matter how long you have procrastinated over the issue of unforgiveness in your heart, start dealing with it now and forgive everyone that has sinned against you, and walk in love. Forgiveness and unwillingness to forgive are exercised freely by each of us. Excuses for unforgiveness only frees the way for us to continue in unforgiveness. Amazingly, we never allow forgiveness to impede our unforgiveness, but often lay out the red carpet when unforgiveness comes seeking a place in our hearts and minds. We are solely to blame for any unforgiveness residing in our hearts. We are the guilty ones when we do not exercise Godly love and forgiveness toward others. Unforgiveness in us far outweighs any sin committed against us. The sin you need to concern yourself with is not the injustice done against you, but any unforgiveness toward the guilty party, particularly after years, even decades have elapsed since the sin was committed. Unforgiveness is not merely an injustice against your fellow man, but also against God. Complaining to God about the sins of another against you, and blatantly displaying an unremitting attitude of unforgiveness toward them, is by far the greater sin. God’s attention is not so much drawn to the sin, or person, you are complaining about, but upon you, your unloving attitude and your sin of unforgiveness. The sins of others against you is like a cut on your arm, your unforgiveness of them is a sign that you spiritual heart has stopped beating.
Unforgiveness is not a sickness, it is a symptom of evil. Unforgiveness is a sin which only you can treat. Unforgiveness is sign that something is terribly wrong, not only in your life, but with you. No one can make you forgive, and no one can forgive for you. You are the only one who can forgive the sin of another against you, and you will never do it until you do. Oftentimes, those who have not forgiven assure themselves they want to forgive and will eventually forgive, but they never do. This fake assurance is used to console themselves by convincing them that they are really nice people, and that they fully intend to forgive, but they never do. Time is an enemy to love and forgiveness. The longer you procrastinate over love and forgiveness, the harder it will become to love and forgive from the heart. The sad refrain of procrastinators is “There’s no time like the future”. You will never forgive another until you really want to. You will never forgive another until you actually do. You will never forgive another until you act on the love of God in you and for you. Unforgiveness is something which is completely out of place in a Christian. There should not even be a trace of unforgiveness in any believer, but only the sweet fragrance of love and forgiveness in, and emanating from, the believer’s heart. People who think this is impossible with certain people, and under certain circumstances, have never known what it is to walk in nothing but love. Love walks in awe of God. Love’s attention is always on God and can only result in forgiveness. Of course you are not going to forgive someone if all you think about is their sin! Of course you are not going to forgive anyone if your attitude is ‘How dare they…’, etc. Conversely, how can you not forgive if you “Rejoice in the Lord always…” (Phil. 4:4). How can you not forgive when your thoughts are consumed by “…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:8,9). Love “…suffereth long, and is kind…envieth not…vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things”.
Love “…never faileth” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). With love forgiveness never fails. Without love unforgiveness will always prevail. Everyone should see the love and forgiveness of God toward you, in your daily walk, in your words and by your actions toward others. The inextricable connection between loving God with all your being and loving your neighbour as yourself is clear for all to see. You will only love your neighbour as yourself if you love God with all your being. You will only forgive your neighbour as you are forgiven by God when you love God with all your being. When you love God with all your being you obey God with your life. “Love of God and love of neighbor are connected. We cannot love God rightly if we do not love our neighbors, especially our fellow Christians, and we cannot love our neighbors rightly if we do not love God (1 Jn. 4:20). As we grow in our sanctification, we must find ourselves loving both God and neighbor more and more. If we lack love, biblically defined, for either God or neighbor, we are not living a life that pleases our Creator.” Anything less than full forgiveness in a Christian’s heart is nothing but hypocrisy of the worst kind. Unforgiveness is a sign that evil is present. The forgiven Christian has no right not to forgive others. There is no scriptural basis for giving shelter to unforgiveness in a Christian heart. They may not say anything to you, but family members and Christian brethren can see your hypocrisy when you talk the talk but do not walk the walk. Unforgiveness makes for an extremely bad witness. The problem is never the offense, but a person’s unforgiveness, as well as the reason which lies at the heart of their unforgiveness, toward it. The problem is never the offense because you always have the option to forgive. You will never forgive anyone as long as your attention is fixed upon their sin rather than the love and forgiveness of God for you. There is nothing of God in you that is motivating your unforgiveness. There is nothing righteous about unforgiveness. The anger that is fuelling your unforgiveness does not impress God, “For the wrath of man worketh not the Righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20 cf. Jas. 1:19). Simply because you have put a person out of your mind does not change the fact that unforgiveness rules your heart. Separation, an irresponsible philosophy of ‘out of sight out of mind’, can never remove the reality of the sin and consequences of unforgiveness, but only confirm it! No act of denial can ever change the fact, and the repercussions, of unforgiveness. Every time you go to God about that person, complaining about what they did to you, etc., you will only and always receive the response: LOVE THEM BY FORGIVING THEM THEIR SIN AS I LOVE AND HAVE FORGIVEN YOU.
Unforgiveness is one of the grossest sins a Christian can commit. Unforgiveness in anyone is bad enough, but when exercised by a Chrstian it is quite repugnant. Unforgiveness is utterly abhorrent and completely inappropriate, unsuited to a creature made by Love, to love. Unforgiveness is not befitting a Christian, it does not wear well on one who has been totally forgiven by God. Unforgiveness is always much, much worse than whatever sin one has chosen not to forgive. It is perhaps the most audacious, outrageous, malevolent and hypocritical of all sins, for whilst gladly receiving God’s forgiveness one cruelly refuses to forgive the sins of a fellow sinner. ‘I am a Christian, I am a creature made by love and forgiveness, but I do not love and forgive you’, is the stuff of madness. The sin of unforgiveness is so insipid that Jesus demonstrated its awfulness by a parable about a king and his servant which demonstrates the glory of forgiveness and the shamefulness, horror and the absolute evil of unforgiveness (see Matt. 18). The unforgiving Christian gratefully receives mercy from God, and yet strangely refuses to show that same mercy to others. Something has gone terribly wrong here. The heart that receives blood naturally pumps blood out, so too, the heart which has received forgiveness naturally pumps that forgiveness out to others. How can a man possibly feel forgiven whilst simultaneously refusing to forgive others? Siding with God and defending His ways, yet not adopting those ways into one’s life, is to live nothing but a vain life. If you do not love, if you do not forgive, you are not His. “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?” (1 Jn. 4:20). Genuine love for God and being forgiven by God will always manifest itself with a zeal to love and forgive others. Serious, deep-seated sin problems always lie behind unforgiveness, and it is always the fault of the unforgiver. Nothing and no one can be blamed for your unforgiveness but you. To justify unforgiveness, or to believe forgiveness is not possible in certain situations, etc., is to say that love is conquerable, that love can fail. This is nothing but a fantasy which we create to excuse our desire to avenge ourselves through unforgiveness. The Scripture reminds us that, “Charity (lovingkindness) never faileth…” No one is the cause, no one is responsible for your unforgiveness but you and your unloving attitude. When you walk in the undefeatable, unconquerable love which God has placed in you, you will always forgive. The fingers of unforgiveness all point directly at you. Unforgiveness is metaphorically throttling the person who has sinned against you, and saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’
Love cancels every debt. Forgiveness sends you on your way with joy and peace, and leaves the forgiven person with a blessing of love. That is the difference between forgiveness and unforgiveness. They are diametric opposites that have nothing in common and are as far apart as east is from the west, as far apart as the merciless strangulation of a person and showing kindness, mercy and compassion to a person. So many Christians fail miserably to ensure they have forgiven all who have sinned against them. Many try to hide behind their hurt without realizing it is the hurt they are hanging onto that is fuelling their unforgiveness. They continually and conveniently put off their need to deal Biblically with the person who has sinned against them, and forgive them. They gradually become comfortably numbed to their duty and responsibility to forgive. You cannot show love toward a fellow sinner without forgiving that sinner. You cannot love your neighbour as yourself without forgiving your neighbour as God has forgiven you. Partial forgiveness, a conditional forgiveness may satisfy you, but it does not please God. Those who prefer not to forgive have failed to seize the opportunity to do what God has done to them: FORGIVE WITHOUT CONDITION, AND WITHOUT FAIL. They see sin as an excuse for them to sin in return through unforgiveness, rather than as a golden opportunity to exercise the blessing of Godly forgiveness. So many have, in ways which they are unaware, adversely affected their own lives, and the lives of others, by reacting in like manner to sin committed against them rather than according to God’s forgiveness of them. If you, as a Christian, have not forgiven fully and freely from your heart, you stand in contradiction to all you allegedly stand for. Moreover, do not think for one moment you who resist forgiving, that your non-Christian friends and family members are not aware of your unforgiveness and hypocrisy. You boast of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness of you, yet apparently you are not so impressed with God’s love and forgiveness as to actually act in accord with them toward those who have sinned against you. Many self-righteously reel in horror at the actions of the unforgiving servant while they themselves willingly refuse to forgive others. They do not recognize the servant in the parable is them! They do the exact same thing as the unforgiving servant all the while seeing themselves through eyes which are blinded by the very same spirit of unforgiveness.
Unforgiveness is an unwillingness to let go of the pain you pridefully, obstinately, feel you are entitled to, and which you are using to justify your vindictive attitude. Unforgiveness is nothing but evil. Unforgiveness often finds its origins in “…an inordinately high opinion of one’s own dignity, or importance”. So many people see sin committed against them as a green light for unforgiveness, but in reality, for the Christian at least, sin committed against us is the alarm which should automatically trigger our forgiveness toward all who have sinned against us. Hatred fuels unforgiveness while love—the conscious decision to follow in God’s footsteps and forgive—drains away all hatred and bitterness, and thus removes all power which unforgiveness had previously been given. Everything that fuels unforgiveness does not come out of love, but from selfish, evil human pride. The Christian is obligated to forgive. Just as there can be no such thing as a Christian who does not believe the Gospel, no Christian has any right not to forgive. There is no alternative to forgiveness for the Christian, and the true Christian does not seek any. Forgiveness is not something to debate about, to ponder whether or not we should forgive on this occasion or not, nor how we should forgive. Forgiven people must forgive. Forgiven people will forgive. Forgiven people do forgive. Forgiveness is not optional! Nor does a Christian have any right to pick and choose whom they will forgive, and how much they are willing to forgive. You cannot be a true Christian without love and forgiveness in your heart. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar…” (1 Jn . 4:20). In other words, anyone who says they love God is lying if they hate their brother. No matter what you say, it is what you do that always betrays what is at the heart of your being. Unforgiveness is the fruit of hate, it is a manifestation of hate, not love. You cannot truly love God if you do not forgive your brethren. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 Jn. 3:10,11). The man who does not love his brother is a child of the Devil. Only the man who loves and forgives his brother is a child of God. “…he that loveth not his brother…is not of God…” The man who does not forgive his brother, who does not love his brother is not of God. A loving and forgiving Christian is the rule, not the exception. Forgiveness is an essential part of being a Christian, and one should always be as ready and willing to forgive as one is to take their next breath. One should always be as ready and willing to forgive as they are to be forgiven. Forgiveness is not something you think about, but something you do. Forgiveness is not something which you merely agree with, but something you actually do. Christians must make a concerted effort to ensure they have forgiven, are forgiving and will always forgive any and all that have sinned against them. If you are so convinced you are fully forgiven, then you MUST forgive fully all trespasses that have been committed against you. Love and forgiveness are the advocates of sinners. They are never opposed to sinners, but always have mercy for, and always seek peace with, sinners.