LOVE AND FORGIVENESS (PART 4)
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Don’t exercise the old you, be the new man. “…walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind…be renewed in the spirit of your mind…put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:17,23,24 cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-9). The true Christian is no longer a fornicator, idolater, adulterer, effeminate, thief, covetous, drunkard or reviler. “What is a reviler? Somebody who hates and holds grudges and is unforgiving and bitter, people like that don’t go to Heaven, not because kindness earns Heaven, but because kindness is the fruit of the Spirit which is given to those who have been broken by the love of Jesus and have embraced the sweetness of being forgiven even though we have reviled God. What destroys us is the settled position that we are not going to forgive, and we have no intention to forgive, and we intend to cherish the grudge and fondle the wrong that someone did to us and feel the bitterness. ‘It feels good. I like to go to bed with my wrath at night because he legitimately wronged me. I am going to hold this against him the rest of his life.’ If we think we can be indwelt by the Spirit of Christ and not make war on that attitude, we are deluded.” “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Prov. 19:11). There are those who hold to the notion that having no intention to ever forgive that person is going to somehow bring you peace. Are they serious? Do they honestly think this is the Christian way? Is ignoring the person who has wronged you, and holding onto a grudge and the unforgiveness it brings with it, the path to peace! Forgiveness is the way of the Christian!! Love is the way of the Christian. Unforgiveness always runs from what it just does not want to face. Unforgiveness runs from people forgiveness runs to people. Unforgiveness is an utterly cowardly and detestable act and attitude. Unforgiveness is nothing short of persecution. No matter the life unforgiveness promises you, do not fall down at its feet, for “…Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). Love and forgive.
Bowing down to unforgiveness is serving yourself, it is worshipping yourself and what you want. Running from that person, excluding them from your life is not the Biblical solution to the problem. Cancelling the right of a person—especially a husband, wife, brother or sister in Christ—to be in your life is anti-Christian. Unforgiveness is anti-love, it thinks nothing of sacrificing love to the idols of bitterness and resentment. “Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who forgives you—out of love—takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness, therefore, always entails a sacrifice.” Unforgiveness is nothing short of casting stones at a fellow sinner. Unforgiveness casts the first stone, the second stone, the third, the fourth, the fifth and so on. Forgiveness leaves no one to cast a stone at. When one runs from a situation responsibility can never be left behind, for it is impossible to escape responsibility. Like truth, it will never go away, it will never change to suit our desires. Responsibility to forgive can never be outdistanced. Responsibility to God and His commands can never be avoided, but must always be fulfilled. Only love and forgiveness will rid you of the pain, only running to that person and forgiving them to the point where the relationship is fully restored—particularly a marriage—is the only Biblical answer and should be the true Christian’s only response. Only running to God and fulfilling His will for you will bring you peace. Many Christians just cannot see their unforgiveness as a problem because they do not want to see it. They do not want to confront it much less face it and deal with the reality of it and act on the responsibility each and every Christian has to forgive their neighbour, particularly their Christian brethren. Running away never solves the problem much less removes it. Dear Christian, seeking to escape your responsibility to forgive is running away from God. Run to God when anyone sins against you. Thank God for His forgiveness of you, and then go and forgive your brother. Act on love. Forgiveness is love in action. Unforgiveness is unconscionable. Until you deal with your unforgiveness it will remain forever with you. If this is you and yet you do not feel any need to forgive, then I sound the alarm loud and clear, YOU HAVE HARDENED YOUR HEART TO THE POINT THERE IS NO LONGER ANY RECOGNITION OF SIN! Behold, I have warned you. Be careful what you allow yourselves to become used to, to what you allow yourself to become acclimatized to, for it is so easy to normalize unforgiveness in our lives. Our sinful natures will always try to normalize and justify unforgiveness. In a sense, unforgiveness puts you in a position of power over others. The end always justifies the means for those interested only in power. There is no right or wrong for such folk, only power. Sadly there are people who have become so used to being without the one they have not forgiven, they see no reason, or need, to be with them, or to properly, biblically, forgive them. Pray to God that you always forgive as you are forgiven.
“Often we feel we have forgiven but we continually remember and relive the wrong. We don’t forget and often we don’t trust. Yes, perhaps this could be because the other individual does not deserve trust, but too often it is because we have hardened our own heart. Considering this, it’s easy to see how a hardened heart can dull a person’s ability to trust or completely forgive. Anyone’s heart can harden, even faithful Christians. Christ spells out for us the characteristics of this spiritual heart condition as an inability to see, understand, or hear God’s calling (see Matt. 13:15 cf. Acts 28:27). Too often we forget how God has blessed us and what He has done for us. Pride will also cause our hearts to harden.” With pride cometh rebellion. “So, what then is the cure for a heart condition such as this? First and foremost, we have to recognize the effect that this spiritual disease has on us. And God will cause us to see our heart’s condition when we ask Him: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ (Psa. 139:23,24). God can heal any heart.” God has filled the hearts of His people with His love, and Christians need to live in that love having the same loving and forgiving attitude toward our brethren as God has toward us all. Love softens hearts and makes them what they are meant to be in the believer: fountains of forgiveness. We are to filter everyone’s sins against us through love and forgiveness. Love and forgive dear Christian, for you are a loved and forgiven creature, a new creature in Christ.
“…forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). What a prayer this is! A good way to test your level of forgiveness is: have you forgiven others the way you want God to forgive you? The best way to discover if you have truly forgiven anyone God’s way, is to pray this prayer with all the sincerity you can muster: ‘Dear God, I want you to forgive me in the exact same way I have forgiven all those who have sinned against me’. Do you want God to forgive you your sins against Him, yet no longer speak to you, or have any fellowship with you? Do you want God to forgive you, but then limit your access to Him and His love for you? No? Then forgive others as He has forgiven you. Your forgiveness of others must be as real as God’s forgiveness of you. Remember the parable of the king and his servant in Matthew 18. We are to love and forgive as we are loved and forgiven by God. We are to be merciful toward others as God is merciful toward us. That is the page we should all be on. Meditate on the love of God for you, and His forgiveness of you and it won't be too long before you are loving and forgiving the same way. Love others by forgiving them and restoring a right relationship with them. There is the real test as to whether or not you have truly forgiven someone: are they back in your life as they were before they sinned against you, or have you ostracized them? Forgiveness sees to it that there is no adverse perceivable change in a relationship where one person has sinned against the other. Anything less than this is not forgiveness at all, but retaliation. Unforgiveness is retaliation. Forgiveness ensures peace, it smooth’s out the bumps in the road of life. Adding fluoroantimonic acid to a fruit cake will not improve the taste, but it will kill you. Likewise, if you have affixed any condition to your ‘forgiveness’ then you have poisoned the cake, and all you really have is retaliation. All conditions added to love and forgiveness are retaliatory in their nature. If your forgiveness is not free of every impediment to full blown peace in the relationship, then you really don’t want to forgive God’s way. You really don’t want to love your neighbour as yourself, nor God with your life. Your will has replaced God’s will for you. There is no Biblical reason for you to not forgive anyone. Unforgiveness is indefensible. To not forgive is to not love, and the Christian is to love his neighbour as himself. A life that is not filled with love and forgiveness for all, is a retaliatory life, a life of bitterness and hatred steeped in vengeance demonstrated by one’s failure to properly, Biblically love and forgive. It may not be a hatred and bitterness which shows overt malice toward the one who has sinned against you, but any relationship that is not as it was prior to sin is due to a wicked and unforgiving heart.
“He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends” (Prov. 17:9 cf. Prov. 19:11). “‘He that covereth a transgression’ — That passes by and buries in oblivion a transgression that hath been committed against himself; or that concealeth, as far as he may, other men’s faults against their friends or neighbours; ‘seeketh’ love — Takes the best course to preserve friendships and to make himself universally beloved; ‘but he that repeateth a matter’ — Who rakes up that fault again, and objects it afresh when it was forgotten; or that publishes and spreads it abroad; ‘separateth very friends’ Breaks the strictest bonds of amity, and makes an irreconcilable separation.” Forgiveness does not attract bitterness, nor is it attracted to bitterness, but repels it. Unforgiveness does not enhance the Christian life, but wholly detracts from it. Forgiveness is not remembering the sin, it is acting toward the sinner as if they had literally never sinned. Forgiveness is choosing not to mention the sin ever again—not even to yourself—once it is forgiven it is as good as forgotten. Choose not to remember the sin, but recall the love and forgiveness of God for you when others sin against you. God says, “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isa. 43:25 cf. Heb. 10:17). The Christian is to forgive in like manner. The Christian’s will should be to forgive and not remember people’s sins committed against them for their own sake. Forgiveness is always on the side of love, not bitterness. Forgiveness always protects the relationship and allows for the free flow of love. The Christian’s choice is to not remember sins, but to forgive and forget sins. As every Christian has a clean slate before God, so too, everyone who sins against us should be given a clean slate via our forgiveness of them. Forgiveness is a quality decision to never again, even mention that sin, nor act in any adverse way against the person who committed it, neither in word, thought or action. Anything less than this is not Biblical forgiveness, but only sin.
There is no logical, justifiable or Scriptural reason a Christian should not want to forgive. So that there will be no confusion as to what the term unforgiveness entails, unforgiveness is that which is not 100% forgiveness. 99% forgiveness is not the forgiveness with which God has forgiven you, nor is it the kind of forgiveness God expects His children to forgive with. True forgiveness does not involve having any reservations. There is no room in true forgiveness for any retaliatory or vengeful thought, let alone action. Only 100% forgiveness will forgive 100% of the time. Only 100% forgiveness is forgiveness. There is no error in truth, there is no unforgiveness in forgiveness. True forgiveness has no strings attached, nor any conditions or provisos. Unforgiveness is pure evil and must be shunned by every true believer, for it is an assault upon the love of God. If you do not intend to forgive 100%, which includes seeking for full restoration of a relationship which sin has tried to destroy, then your ‘forgiveness’ is disingenuous and, therefore, meaningless. Incremental forgiveness, forgiveness which comes in dribs and drabs, is nothing but unforgiveness in disguise. Anything that seeks to stall the process of forgiveness is sin. Procrastination (there’s no time like the future), in fact, any hesitancy in forgiving another is nothing but sin. Letting go of the sin committed against you piecemeal is not the Biblical way. Is this the way God has forgiven you? Remember the Word of the Lord: “…even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:13 cf. Eph. 4:32). Forgive in a way which leaves nothing left to forgive. Forgive it; forget it and get on with it! Forgive sin, forget sin, and get on with life and love. Any degree of unforgiveness is, in every respect, an insult to God, and an abuse of the grace He has saved His people by. Dear Christian, be responsible and forgive your fellow man. Don’t lie there like a victim, stand up and be a victor through love and forgiveness. Resist and refuse unforgiveness, act graciously, mercifully and compassionately toward your neighbor, just as God has acted graciously, mercifully and compassionately toward you. Forgive them their relatively trifling debts as God has forgiven you your unpayable debt. Sins committed against us by others may be viewed as unpayable, but not one of them is unforgiveable. Unforgiveness does nothing but foster anger, hatred and resentment. If you do not forgive your neighbor you are not in harmony with God. If there is unforgiveness in your life then your relationship with God is not where it should be. If you do not forgive as Christ has forgiven you, you are not in harmony with God. You will never forgive as long as your focus is selfishly upon what has been done to you rather than on what God has done for you in blessing you by forgiving you and saving you from your sin. You will never forgive as long as your focus is selfishly upon what has been done to you rather than on what you should do: forgive.
Love dismisses any concern over what was done, and replaces it with forgiveness for the one who did it. Unforgiveness, however, is avenging yourself, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written: Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Unforgiveness is an expression of loving yourself in a sinful manner. Real forgiveness is loving your neighbour as yourself. Real love is loving without limit. Real forgiveness brings restoration without restrictions. When someone sins against you always remember your response should always be according to how God has treated you, rather than on how the person has treated you. React according to God’s love for you and forgiveness of you, and not in accord with how a person has mistreated, or even maltreated you. Fighting fire with fire will only produce a bigger fire. Fight the fire of sin with the extinguishing waters of love and forgiveness. This will not happen accidentally. You must consciously, purposefully and willfully always be resigned to the actions of love and forgiveness. Don’t just let love and forgiveness dwell in you, USE THEM! Deploy love and forgiveness through your life and you will be fulfilling your role as a Christian and God’s will for you. We are not to allow our emotions to dictate how we should respond to others, but always and only in accordance with how God has loved us and forgiven us everything. Living your life rebelliously against the one who has sinned against you by breaking off, or allowing your relationship with them to be adversely affected in any way to any degree, is nothing but rebellion against the God Who loves you and has forgiven you all. It is nothing but an unmitigated shame for a Christian to walk in unforgiveness. You would think that one who has been forgiven everything—which is every Christian—would, in turn, forgive everything. To forgive is something you must choose to do primarily because of your love of God, and secondarily because of your love for your neighbor. God’s love for you must be lived out in your obedience to God and in your relationships with others especially those for whom Christ died. Love your brethren as Christ loves them. Forgive your brethren as Christ has forgiven you.
There is no such thing as a Christian who cannot forgive, only a Christian who will not forgive. If you genuinely, sincerely, want to forgive you will forgive. What is there to prevent you from forgiveness but unforgiveness? What is there that can prevent you from loving but hating? What is there to prevent you from forgiving another other than a reluctance to do so which is born out of resentment? The means to forgive is in us through the love of God given to us. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:20), and because God’s love is for us and in us we love the brethren and our neighbour as ourselves. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love…If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 Jn. 4:7,8,12). You cannot love, you cannot be born of God if you do not live a life of forgiveness toward others. There is no bigger hypocrite walking on the earth today than a Christian who refuses to forgive his fellow man. This hypocrisy is magnified beyond measure if that person is his brother or sister in Christ. Be not deceived, the real issue is never the sin committed against you, but your refusal to love and forgive the one who committed it. “…He that loveth not knoweth not God…” (1 Jn. 4:8). Focusing on the other person’s sin is nothing but a cover for your sin of unforgiveness and unwillingness to love. As love is what leads us to forgive, anyone who does not forgive does not know God. He who is not actively loving and forgiving does not know God. God is love, so how can we who profess to know Him not love and forgive our brethren? This would be like saying you love one sporting team, yet actively support a rival. Unforgiveness is a selfish act, it is a miserly act performed by one who refuses to give to others what he himself has been abundantly blessed with by God no less, while forgiveness which comes from love unfeigned is the most selfless act. Forgiveness is a charitable act, a sacrificial act, for it graciously puts others first. It is the act of a meek and humble person who is more concerned with the relationship than with their own feelings, more concerned with blessing others than being blessed themselves, more concerned with their relationship with God than with their ego. Love and forgiveness are great healers. Those who have sinned are healed by being loved and forgiven, and those who have been sinned against are healed because they have loved and forgiven. Forgiveness is an act motivated because of God’s love for all His people and their love for Him. Love and forgiveness virtually ignore the sin committed and the pain felt because of an overwhelming heart-hunger to love and forgive, to walk as He walked and to show compassion as He showed compassion. Unforgiveness ignores the sinner. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 Jn. 2:6). Being a Christian is to be like the Saviour. To follow the Saviour is to mirror the Saviour, it is to be obedient to Him and not our sinful natures. For the Christian, unforgiveness should be an obsolete thing, something which is associated only with one’s past, not one’s present or future. There must be repentance, or unmerciful forgiveness will continue to reign in your heart. People who will not forgive focus on themselves and what was done, or said, against them, instead of setting their mind on God and how He has loved and forgiven them. Unforgiveness is spiritual immaturity, it comes from carnal instincts to avenge the injustice committed while despising any thought to simply pass over the transgression and continue to love without interruption. What can forgiveness not forgive? Nothing. Whom will love not love? No one. Both love and forgiveness have no bias against anyone. Love and forgiveness are advocates not prosecutors. Love and forgiveness are not persecutors, they are emancipators.
Christians are commanded, not only to love their brethren, but also to love their very enemies. You cannot love without forgiveness. You cannot love and not forgive. “One forgives to the degree that one loves.” “Forgiveness is love in its most noble form.” There is nothing that forgiveness cannot forgive, for there is no one that love cannot love. The only impediment to forgiveness is not the sin committed against you, but your refusal to forgive it. Do not keep a record of how badly anyone has treated you, wipe the slate clean, in fact, get rid of the slate altogether and stamp their papers ‘FORGIVEN FOREVER’. Treat others as God has mercifully and graciously loved and forgiven you. You say you love God, then why don’t you do what God does! Don’t wait till you get to Heaven before you begin to live a saintly life, DO IT NOW! Love that person by forgiving that person now, or do you plan to ignore that person even in Paradise? Your fellow man needs your forgiveness just as you do when you sin against him. People need you to forgive them, not hate them, not ignore them. They don’t need a piece of your mind, they need a piece of your heart. They need your charity just as you require it from God. Love for God is measured in your attitude and actions toward your fellow man. “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). If you do not forgive you are not loving, therefore, though you believe you love God, God calls you a liar, for love for God and hatred for a brother are simply not compatible. To love and forgive is a command, not some trifling suggestion, and true Christians—those whose love for God is truly genuine—will have no trouble in wanting to love and forgive all who have sinned against them. There may, at times, be degrees of difficulty in forgiving, but there is no alternative to the life of love and forgiveness for the true Christian. Your relationship with your brethren is an extension of your real relationship with God. Ignore your brethren, fail to properly forgive your brethren, and you are not loving God as you ought.
You cannot be walking in love, if you put your own interests ahead of others, and harbor an attitude of unforgiveness toward anyone. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). From indifference to anger these emotions are nothing but manifestations of selfishness and unforgiveness, of hatred and bitterness. “Hatred and bitterness. These negative emotions are always wrong. They are mental and physical poisons that will destroy you if you let them. Hatred and bitterness may appear to generate a lot of energy, but in reality, they only divert energy from constructive to destructive purposes. Usually this harms both the hated person and the person doing the hating. Frankly, the words of Jesus contain a good deal of psychological wisdom, 'Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…' (Matt. 5:43-45 cf. Rom. 12:19-21).” Love, bless, do good and pray is how to live the Christian life. The brother or sister in Christ that you have chosen to avoid is still patiently waiting for your forgiveness all the while forgiving your unforgiveness. To treat a brother or sister in Christ as insignificant is to wickedly look upon them as expendable, and yourself as better than they. This is antichrist living and the exact opposite of how a Christian should be. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3 cf. Gal. 5:26; Jas. 3:13-18). It is unforgiveness which is expendable, and not the brother or sister in Christ whom we are to always forgive. Christians are never to heartlessly, uncaringly, coldly dismiss a brother, to expel him from their lives because of sin. Christians are family. Forgiveness must prevail, love must prevail between brethren. Remember, Christ died for that very person you refuse to forgive, for the person you have deemed fit to hate through your unloving and unmerciful and ongoing act of unforgiveness. Christians are brethren, we are of the same body, we are of the same Lord and we are all part of His Kingdom of love. Jesus said: “This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you…Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you…These things I command you, that ye love one another” (Jn. 15:12,14,17). “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 Jn. 4:7). How serious is it to not love a brother or sister in Christ by not forgiving them? “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8 cf. 1 Jn. 1:6; 2:4,9,10; 3:14; 4:20). “…God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). “Since it was God Who ordered the relations in which we all stand to one another, contempt for these relations is contempt for Him.” Unforgiveness is nothing but contempt for love, which is nothing but contempt for God. Unforgiveness can only breed contempt. An unloving attitude is the breeding ground for a multitude of sins.
No greater contempt is shown toward God, in the context of human relationships, than for a Christian husband or a wife to separate or divorce, “…What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). One woman has written, “I have only one enemy, who has worked very hard to destroy my marriage. But God, who is faithful, merciful, tender, loving, steadfast, and just, wants my marriage to bear fruit for His Kingdom. That’s why He created it. My husband is not my enemy. He is my ally and friend. He is my groom, and my protector. He is my mate and my partner who I promised to love and to cherish until death separates us.” There should be a natural affection present among believers for each other, after all, we are family and the God of love and forgiveness is our Father. Christians are the children, the products, of God’s love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness must prevail in the Christian’s life, for of what worth is your Christianity if you do not love and forgive? Lovingkindness must have its way in the Christian’s life. One will not forgive without humility, and meekness, without a gentle and tender attitude toward your fellow man. Your life will not bring glory to God unless you love and forgive one and all for their sins against you. True forgiveness can never come from a selfish, prideful, or uncharitable heart. “One of the most devastating symptoms of pride is the unwillingness to forgive.” A heart which is not in tune with the spirit of forgiveness one has been blessed with, is a heart most miserable and headed for unavoidable pain. A husband should “…love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph. 5:32). There is no unforgiveness in love, as there is no unforgiveness in reverence. Marriage must involve, and never shirk, the responsibility to love and deeply respect.
Forgiveness is not to be made conditional under any circumstances. NO provisos, stipulations or terms whatsoever should accompany a Christian’s forgiveness. Forgiveness should be 100% relationship-restoring, or it is no forgiveness at all. Forgiveness is a matter of all or nothing. A forgiveness with a condition or conditions attached, is like saying, ‘I forgive you, BUT…’ Whenever you say, ‘I forgive you, but…’ you are really saying, ‘I don’t forgive you at all’, for real forgiveness is unconditional. Unforgiveness eclipses the heart with the shadow of evil. Hurt is caused by sin, however, unforgiveness is caused by a wrong attitude, an unchristian attitude, an ungodly, unmerciful and unloving attitude toward the one who has sinned against you, which just exacerbates the pain. Sin hurts—forgiveness heals. Your unforgiveness is not caused by anyone’s sin against you, but is always brought on by you when you are unwilling to show the forgiving love with which you are loved and forgiven by God. Sin is not the cause of unforgiveness, unforgiveness is sin caused by the sinner who refuses to love and forgive. Unforgiveness is a hate crime against your fellow man and God. Unforgiveness is simply a refusal to obey the command of God to love and forgive. Unforgiveness is both a sin of omission and commission, in that it omits love and commits hate. Your unforgiveness is far worse than any sin committed against you. Often it can be your attitude toward the person who has sinned against you and not so much the actual sin committed that fuels your unforgiveness. Resentment, bitterness, jealousy perhaps, dented pride, a bruised ego and an attitude of vengefulness will only make it seem more impossible to forgive. Loving and forgiving others is letting go of ego. As the man said, “Ego is not your amigo”. Storing up resentment over years of suffering—that in reality has only continued because of your unforgiving attitude—only serves to fill a person with a false sense of right in not forgiving another. It is so ironical that while the repentant sinner has let go of their sin, the unforgiving person is left as the only one hanging onto it. Why? Why would you want to hang onto a sin committed against you when the person who committed it has repented, apologized and seeks a full restoration of their relationship with you?
Unforgiveness is never justifiable. Those who have sinned against us are not fair game for our bitterness because of their sin. Yes, my friend, it DOES matter when you sin through unforgiveness against one who has sinned against you. Unforgiveness is never justified. Your snide remarks and unloving attitude come out of your sinful heart. How do you know if you have unforgiveness in your heart? When you treat someone any differently after they have sinned against you compared with how you treated them prior to their sin! The reality of the situation is the person who is forgiven by God has absolutely no right whatsoever to not forgive his fellow man. Of all people, Christians should not be living their own truth, but in God’s real world. There is nothing you could ever say to God which would cause Him to respond by saying, ‘You’re right, you should not be expected to forgive that person that sin, it is unforgivable’. The entire premise is perfectly ridiculous. The only unforgiveable sin can only be committed against God, not a man (see Matt. 12:31,32). Unforgiveness against anyone is rebellion against God, it is no less a betrayal of the love and forgiveness God has blessed you with than the servant’s betrayal of the king’s having forgiven him. Unforgiveness is supported by pride which always leads to rebellion. Many are under the impression that they have forgiven a fellow believer, based on their having forgotten the sin and have moved on with their lives. If this is so, why have they not restored a right relationship with the one who sinned against them, the one who is now wholly repentant of their sin and seeks reconciliation? However happy your life might be is no indication of God’s acquiescing to, or even approving of, your unforgiveness. Every Christian has an obligation toward his brother or sister in Christ. Being unforgiving is one thing, but unforgiveness shown to a fellow believer who has repented and gently, lovingly seeks reconciliation is about as low as one can get in this life. Any opposition to such a statement only goes to show just how deeply the sin of unforgiveness has been permitted to embed itself in the one who refuses to forgive. Unforgiveness distorts reality, and convinces you that nothing you are doing is wrong. You can find no fault in the person now, you cannot point a finger to how the repentant one is now, so you foolishly live according to how they were and what they did in the past. People, particularly Christians, who do not forgive have extremely serious problems. The sin of unforgiveness should be utterly detested by every Christian, and shunned at all times.
If forgiveness is not full and free, it is not forgiveness at all, but unforgiveness. Unforgiveness can at times have quite a beautiful exterior, and yet its true nature is as ugly as Hell. Unforgiveness is unfinished business. If you are not outside you are inside, if you are not wet you are dry, if you are not 20 years of age you are anything but 20 years of age. Likewise, you have either forgiven, or you have not forgiven. There is no unforgiveness in forgiveness, and there is no genuine forgiveness in unforgiveness. You cannot fully live out your Christian life if you do not freely, fully and graciously forgive everyone their every sin ever committed against you. Unforgiveness is a stone wall blocking the Christian’s pathway. Unforgiveness in you will always work against you. Everything may seem right in your life, but if you harbor unforgiveness in your heart you have failed to properly express your love to God for God’s having loved and forgiven you. If your unspoken attitude is ‘Well, all my unforgiveness will be forgotten once I am safely in Heaven’, you are indeed the saddest of all people. The sin of unforgiveness should be deeply disturbing to the true Christian, so much so that he cannot live with it and will invariably banish it from their lives. The sin of unforgiveness in God’s people does get forgiven and forgotten by God. The fact of the matter is that forgiveness is inseparable from the Christian life, the two go hand in hand. The reality of the Christian life is seen clearly in the following Scripture: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mk. 11:25,26 cf. Matt. 5:23,24). “Sin not yet forgiven hinders all things else. Christ does not say that our forgiving others suffices to secure forgiveness for ourselves; but refusing to forgive others is a bar to our being forgiven…how can we expect forgiveness of God, against Whom we have most highly offended, if we refuse to forgive our fellows who have offended us far less. So this forgiveness by us is requisite in order to our possessing true faith, and that faith is necessary to procure anything from God.” Unforgiveness is bowing down to your will instead of God’s Word. Taking a head-in-the-sand approach toward your unforgiveness, choosing to procrastinate, to have your head in the clouds, to put your love and forgiveness on hold, is a most irresponsibly sinful and spiritually immature way of life. Many who say, ‘I will forgive them when I am good and ready’, know full well they do not intend to forgive that person at all. If only Christians who are unswervingly and wholeheartedly committed not to unforgiveness, had the same level of ardent determination to forgive.
Forgiving others is a debt which Christians owe to God and to their neighbour. The Christian should owe nothing to anyone except to love them and forgive them. To love fully and forgive unconditionally are the actions of a free man, a joyful man, a Christian man. Joy unspeakable comes from loving and forgiving others as God loves and has forgiven you. The moment you offer a defense for not freely loving fully and forgiving unconditionally, the excuses will never end and you will never forgive as you are forgiven. “The obligation of the New Covenant is to live in the love of Christ, to love one another as Christ loves us, His people.” Christians are in an eternal covenant with God Who has forgiven them and taken away their sins, and Christians are also in a covenant with one another to love each other and forgive each other their sins. You are not loving your neighbor as yourself if you do not forgive your neighbor as Christ has forgiven you. You are not loving God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind if you have not forgiven your neighbor as God has forgiven you. True forgiveness is forgiving your neighbor with the love, mercy and grace with which God has forgiven you. Even if the person who has hurt us is unrepentant, the forgiven Christian is always obliged to forgive them. Forgiveness is choosing not to live in accord with the consequences of another person’s sin. The ‘price’ of forgiveness is negligible when compared to the cost that comes with unforgiveness. “In cases where there is no repentance on the part of the perpetrator, what is most important is that bitterness does not gain a foothold in the heart of the victim.” And the only way to see to it that bitterness does not gain a foothold in our lives is to love and forgive those who sin against us. “There are times when you may not get the chance to profess or demonstrate forgiveness because of a remorseless wrongdoer. But you can maintain a forgiving disposition in your spirit and move on in life free from longings for vengeance and vindication. Too many people go through life crippled by resentment and their determination to cling to it.” Some people’s entire lives are based on unforgiveness. They are designed in such a way as to not include the person whom one refuses to forgive. It is an unnatural life, a sad life, and an extremely sinful life. The obligation to forgive trains the spotlight on you, not what was done against you. Whenever we are sinned against as Christians we must ensure that our immediate response is to love and forgive the transgressor. Why would anyone who is eternally forgiven want to oppose the Godly principal of love and forgiveness? You do not oppose God’s loving and forgiving you, so why go against the notion of loving and forgiving others?
You will search in vain for any Scripture that will endorse any unforgiveness on the part of the believer toward anyone. There is no Biblical precedent that endorses unforgiveness in the believer. Our walk with God is not to be according to our standard of justice, but according to God’s Word, according to His Standard of love, mercy, grace, compassion and forgiveness. We are to live holy lives of love and forgiveness, not unholy lives filled with hatred and bitterness. “Cries for justice are often the bitter laments of the vengeful.” You cannot live life demanding justice for those who sin against you, while expecting mercy for yourself. If you desire mercy you must be merciful. “…O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?” (Matt. 18:32,33). We are not to tell God to, ‘follow us’, but we must follow Him and live according to His commands: Love Him with all our beings and our neighbor as ourselves. Prior to being born again we lived our lives according to our will, now we must live our lives in strict accord with God’s will alone. You cannot, and will never love God with all your being if you do not love your neighbour as yourself. There is only one way to live the Christian life and that is to love God with all your heart, with all your strength, with all your soul and with all your mind, and by doing this we WILL love our neighbor as ourselves. Clearly, there is something drastically wrong with a Christian who claims to love God, and yet refuses to forgive a brother or sister in Christ. Jesus said: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn. 13:34,35). You cannot forgive if you do not love. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 Jn. 3:14). He that loves not his brother is not of God, but abides in death. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now…he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 Jn. 2:9,11). “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8).
If your forgiveness is laced with conditions, if you have determined not to forgive someone past a certain point, your forgiveness is no different to that of the world’s. You are not loving your neighbour as yourself and you are certainly not loving God with all your being. Forgiveness of others gives us an insight into how real our love for God is. Will you love God by forgiving all who have sinned against you? Anything less than 100% forgiveness is not forgiveness at all but hatred in disguise. There is no such thing as conditional forgiveness except in the hearts of those who refuse to love. The ‘forgiveness’ of the world is for the benefit of the forgiver, the forgiveness of God, Godly forgiveness, actually benefits the forgiven in real life. Anything less than Godly forgiveness is not true forgiveness, but a phony forgiveness which you are using in an attempt to satisfy your own interests, i.e., pacifying a nagging conscience, etc. Instead of pleasing God, those who practice a phony forgiveness prefer to appease their partially seared consciences. God sees right through you. This is not the way Christians are to forgive others, for it most assuredly is not the way they have been forgiven by Almighty God. ‘How should I forgive my neighbour?’, precisely the way God has forgiven you! “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 Jn. 2:6). “…forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). To forgive others in any less a way than that by which we have been forgiven by God is to be no different to the heartless, unforgiving servant of Matthew 18, who begged his lord for mercy, readily received it in the guise of having his debt completely forgiven, and then immediately after this joyous event not only chose not to pass on that same spirit of forgiveness to one who owed him a relatively mere pittance, but instead acted violently toward him! Unforgiveness is an act of violence and doubly so when committed against a brother or sister in Christ. The fully forgiven should fully forgive. “Unlimited forgiveness ought to be demonstrated with mercy toward others because it is the reflection of a right relationship with the Father. Or to state it another way. God’s forgiveness of our sins should motivate us to forgive those who offend us.” If you gladly receive forgiveness from God, yet fail to treat others in the same manner, doubt is firmly cast upon whether you really have been forgiven by God. The very essence of what being a Christian is all about is to love God with all you have and all you are, AND your neighbour as yourself. These are the Greatest Commandments, they are the very principal of life by which the Christian is ordered to live by. You are not loving God, or your neighbour, if you do not forgive your neighbour. “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (Jas. 2:8,9).
“When we are injured by another, it establishes a debtor relationship. We forgive by cancelling the debt someone owes us for wrong done. We don’t expect them to pay us back.” We don’t look for them to pay us back. We don’t wait for them to pay us back. “We don’t try to get even. I can never repay God what I owe. When someone else does evil to me, they can never repay either. But when I recognize my forgiveness, I won’t hold them accountable for their evil. When we refuse to forgive someone else, it is the same as saying, ‘I would never do such a thing’.” Unforgiveness toward a brother in Christ is resentment of God’s forgiveness of you, for it certainly is not a display of appreciation for God’s forgiveness of you. “When we realize our own evil, we know that we can and will do the same things to others. Misery is assured if I fail to forgive. What about the person that does not come seeking forgiveness and repent? Jesus forgave the people while He was on the cross and they had not repented. They did not know what they were doing…what forgiveness does is release the other person from me. It turns the problem over to God. I no longer hold it in my power to judge.” Unforgiveness is condemnation, it is mercilessly judging the one who has sinned against you. Forgiveness is releasing oneself from the condemnation of others, leaving that to God, and continuing on in one’s relationship with the person. Forgiveness can only come through mercy, not via a vengeful and condemning attitude. If you have asked yourself, ‘Have I truly forgiven that person’, you may well find yourself struggling with the reality that if you had properly forgiven that person you would never had felt the need to ask yourself that question. Such a question belies the presence, and is an expression, of doubt that you have forgiven in a godly manner, so if you ever find yourself posing such a question to yourself you already have your answer. If the question needs to be asked, then it is clear you know in your heart of hearts, deep within your conscience, that you have not forgiven as you ought, and you need to take immediate steps to properly forgive. If you ignore all this, you will simply go on in sin and your unforgiveness will only grow and grow to the point where you will never even think to ask that question to yourself ever again. If you had properly forgiven that person they would be right by your side now enjoying your love and forgiveness of them. If there is separation on your part there is no forgiveness. If there is love there would be forgiveness and communication not silence and separation. Those who have truly forgiven have no need to ask themselves if they have forgiven, for their actions provide the evidence of love. True forgiveness makes for reconciliation, not separation. True forgiveness causes separation from that which was done to you, not from the one who did it. Remarkably, some who have yet to forgive actually feel sorrow for the one whom they have not forgiven. This sorrow is not godly sorrow but a worldly sorrow designed to bring comfort and assurance to the unforgiver that they are indeed nice people. We all know deep in our hearts as to whether or not we have rightly forgiven others as we are forgiven by God. There is nothing nebulous about God’s forgiveness of us, nothing about His forgiving us that is vague, so too, our forgiveness of others should be as distinct, clear-cut and unequivocal as God’s forgiveness of us. God’s forgiveness of His people has restored them to a right relationship with Him, a relationship that is filled to overflowing with love, grace, compassion, kindness, understanding, blessings and mercy, etc. Is this how you have forgiven? If not, isn’t it time, dear Christian, that you forgive others as you are forgiven by God.