LOVE AND FORGIVENESS (PART 6)
Forgiveness from the heart does not stop at the words, ‘I forgive you’, but always has accompanying actions to back up and verify the forgiveness claimed. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18 cf. Ezek. 33:31; Rom. 12:9). To turn the other cheek is to forgive from the heart. To forgive from the heart is to love from the heart. Just going through the motions saying the words, ‘I forgive you’ is NOT Biblical forgiveness. Words without commitment to action mean nothing. If you do not do everything in your power to restore a right relationship with the one you claim to have forgiven, your words are like empty wagons, they make a lot of noise but there is nothing in them. It is the same as those who say they are Christians but continue on in a willful sinful lifestyle who show no repentance, or any fruit of the Spirit. Real forgiveness is always from the heart and is motivated by love, love for God and love for the person who has sinned against us. Real forgiveness is never without corresponding action. True forgiveness is forgiveness “…from your heart, no sham or lip pardon; but real, unreserved, thoroughgoing, and in consequence again and again, times without number, because the heart inclines that way”. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18 cf. 1 Jn. 3:23). To love your neighbor as yourself is to forgive your neighbor in no less a manner than how God has forgiven you. “Forgiveness must be real, sincere, not pretended, nor merely outward. There must not only be no outward act of revenge, but no malice in the heart, no storing up of evil passions for future outlet, as occasion may arise.” The Christian must not engage himself in any unforgiveness be it in thought, word or action not in public nor in private. “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (Jas. 2:12). The true you is who you are when you are completely alone, and not when you are with other people. What you say and do in public must be the person you are in the privacy of your mind, or you are nothing but a hypocrite. "‘…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; by which he is to be judged of, and not by his words.” Unforgiveness cannot exist without malice in the heart fuelling its existence. “The heart must be in harmony with the conduct, and both must evidence a true spirit of charity. This alone enables one to continue in a state of grace and in reconciliation with God; this alone makes prayer acceptable; and we are assured that, as our heavenly Father requires us to forgive without limit, so His mercy is infinite and will be extended to us in measure unbounded.” Real forgiveness has no limit as to what it will forgive, how much it will forgive, nor whom it will forgive. Real forgiveness, just like real love, can never be thwarted or discouraged by anything. Real forgiveness sets up no barriers, but crashes through every barrier which sin has erected so that love and peace will prevail in our hearts and so toward others. Real forgiveness is unconcerned with what was done, but is totally preoccupied with obeying God. When your love for God is real, you cannot but love your neighbour as yourself, and forgive as you are forgiven. True Christ-like forgiveness is eternal in its scope and limitless in its volume. Forgiveness is the beautiful child of the grace, mercy and love of God adopted into the heart of every true believer.
We all know deep down whether or not we really have forgiven someone. Every Christian is under no illusion as to how God has forgiven them—unconditionally. You know in your hearts of hearts whether you have Biblically forgiven someone, and no amount of time spent with your head in the sand, or in the bosom of procrastination, is going to change the reality, or remove the presence of unforgiveness from your heart. I tremble for every person who claims to be a Christian, and yet does not forgive as God forgives His people. “…if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15). This verse is not in the Bible just because Matthew’s sixth chapter needed a fifteenth verse, it is there to remind us of just how particularly serious the issue of forgiveness should be for the Christian. The person who has really forgiven says, ‘I forgive you’, and then does everything in their power to restore and resume the relationship as if no sin, no offense, was ever perpetrated. To forgive from the heart is to ensure that actions accompany the desire to forgive and love just as one is loved and forgiven by God. Just as it is natural for sinful man to not want to forgive, but to harbor grudges and seek payback, etc., so too, the Christian man should strongly desire and see to it that forgiveness in its fullest measure always has its way in our lives, and rules in our hearts, and that our actions, words and thoughts refuse to EVER entertain notions of revenge, but to live as though no sin had even occurred. “…all injuries by word or deed, all offences, though ever so justly taken, or unjustly given; these should be forgiven fully, freely, and from the heart, forgetting, as well as forgiving, not upbraiding with them, or with former offences, and aggravating them; and should also pray to God that He would forgive also.” How can you ask God to forgive your brethren, but fail to forgive them yourself. No judgmental or accusatory mention of the sin should ever be entered into ever again once you have forgiven. This includes repeating the sin to others, even mere acquaintances. Properly forgiven sin is eternally forgotten sin, and no mention of it, no thought of it, should ever again be engaged in. There is only one legitimate way to forgive, and that is God’s way. “…I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 8:12). You are not any better than the person who does not forgive, and they are not beneath you because you do forgive. Real love does not think in terms of who is better at living the Christian life, real love simply loves and forgives, seeking peace with all men and the glory of God.
Christians should always put all sins committed against them, every sin and every hurt whatever it may be through the filter of love and forgiveness before it reaches the core of our being. Every manifestation of revenge, all grudges and the seeking of vengeance as well as all unforgiveness are nothing but the ugliest of sins. “…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 cf. Jas. 2:13). “…not that the forgiveness of others is the procuring cause of forgiveness with God, which is the blood of Christ; or of the manifestation and application of it, that is, the advocacy of Christ; nor the moving cause of it, that is, the free grace of God: but this enters into the character, and is descriptive of the persons, to whom God is pleased to make a comfortable discovery, and give a delightful sense of His pardoning grace; such persons, so disposed and assisted by His grace, may expect it of Him. On the other hand, where men are not of a forgiving temper to their fellow creatures and fellow Christians, how can they expect forgiveness at the hands of God? or what sense of pardoning grace can there be upon their minds? ‘…he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy…” (Jas. 2:13). Had they any right apprehensions of the grace and goodness of God, in the forgiveness of their sins, this would influence their minds, and engage their hearts to forgive such who have offended them: wherefore, where this is wanting, it may be concluded of, and said to such persons, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses…There is a considerable emphasis lies upon the word ‘men’, to which ‘heavenly Father’ is opposed, and the sense, according to it, is, that if men, who are upon an equal footing with each other, should not forgive one another, how should it be expected that our Father which is in Heaven, Who is so much above, and no ways obliged to us, should forgive us?”
There is no logical, Biblical reason in existence that can be appealed to in order for a Christian to justify not forgiving their fellow believer in particular, and every man in general. The Christian is obligated to forgive, he is under a heavenly mandate to always forgive no matter what the sin. True forgiveness always overrules, rejects, the desire for any form of vengeance. Under no circumstances is a Christian ever excused from forgiving his neighbour. The Christian is never given a leave of absence from forgiveness. There is no time off, no vacation, from forgiveness. “…if they do not forgive, they may justly question whether God hath forgiven them, and expect the same severity from Him which they show unto their brethren (see Matt. 18:21-35).” The person who questions themselves and asks, ‘Have I forgiven that person’, should perhaps be asking the more pertinent questions: ‘Have I been forgiven by God?…am I a real Christian? Why, if I am forgiven by God, do I not forgive as I am convinced He has forgiven me?’ “Mercy is dear to God, and intercedes for the sinner, and breaks his chains, and dissipates the darkness, and quenches the fire of Hell, and destroys the worm, and rescues from the gnashing of teeth. To her the gates of Heaven are opened. She is the queen of virtues, and makes men like to God, for it is written, ‘Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful’ (Lk. 6:36). She has silver wings like the dove, and feathers of gold, and soars aloft, and is clothed with divine glory, and stands by the throne of God; when we are in danger of being condemned she rises up and pleads for us, and covers us with her defence, and enfolds us in her wings. God loves mercy more than sacrifice (see Matt. 9:13 cf. Matt. 5:7).”
No sin among men is unforgiveable. The only sin which only feels unforgiveable is the one you refuse to forgive. There is no sin committed by a man which should not be, or does not have to be, forgiven by the Christian. Grace, mercy, love which never fail to produce forgiveness, must reign in the believer’s heart, or forgiveness will never come forth from it. No Scripture will ever support any form of unforgiveness toward any. “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” (Mk. 11:25). Nothing but love and total forgiveness is what is advocated for the true believer saved of God. You praise God for His forgiveness of you, and yet you refuse to forgive that one person in your life who deeply hurt you. You praise God for His mercy upon you, for His grace toward you in saving such a wretch like you, and yet you refuse to forgive that one person in your life. This is contradictory living. It is living in opposition to the command of God to forgive everyone whom you have anything against. Unforgiveness is conflict. Unforgiveness is incompatible with the Christian life. Unforgiveness in a believer’s heart is conflict between what has been given you with what you are prepared to give others, and what you simply refuse to give unto others. As long as that conflict remains, as long as there is a discrepancy between God’s love and forgiveness of you, and your lack of love and refusal to forgive another, you will be a person whose spiritual life is in turmoil and an utter hypocrisy. The ripple effect of refusing to love and forgive as you are loved and forgiven, dear Christian, is never ending. Every act of unforgiveness has its unavoidable and unstoppable ramifications. Unforgiveness is a hate crime. The problem with unforgiveness is that if it was a person no one would welcome it into their lives as it is something quite difficult, nay impossible, to find any Biblical support for. There is nothing on earth that you can possibly turn to that can even remotely justify any unforgiveness toward anything or anyone, ever. If you are forgiven, you must forgive. If you are forgiven, you must forgive as you have been forgiven. If you are forgiven you will forgive. Welcome to the real world of Christianity.
Those who will not listen to the Word of God, who choose to live in unforgiveness, are among the saddest of all people, and, amongst Christians, the most sinful. Those who choose not to forgive have willingly, voluntarily, given Satan a foothold in their lives. It is far better to forgive, than to regret not having forgiven. Some believers claim to know and love the God of forgiveness, and yet unlovingly pick and choose whom they will forgive and to what degree. They play harmful, hurtful games with people that will ultimately backfire on them. Unforgiveness is a very cruel form of torture, and if one does not love in return it can only promote more unforgiveness. You cannot call forgiveness that which does not fully and totally forgive. A conditional forgiveness is just a convenient version of the real thing which you have manufactured to suit yourself. A conditional forgiveness is forgiving people your way while receiving God’s forgiveness His way. It’s two different brands of forgiveness, two standards which only conflict. Being saved has made a man free from many things not the least of which is a bitter and unforgiving heart. To willingly go back to a lifestyle of bitterness and unforgiveness is to be like a dog returning to its vomit (see 2 Pet. 2:22 cf. Prov. 26:11). So many people who claim to be Christians focus on not smoking anymore, not drinking alcohol any more, etc., and yet they allow unforgiveness to reign in their hearts unchallenged. Even if there is only one person whom you do not forgive, you are guilty of a lifestyle of unforgiveness toward them. The Christian has been blessed with the freedom to willingly, happily, cheerfully and joyfully forgive one and all who have sinned against him. You will not lose anything except that which tried to destroy you when you forgive, and you will gain everything. Are we such fragile people that we fear we will lose out if we forgive someone rather than insist on an apology, or demand justice for what was done against us. Are we so fragile a people to think that by forgiving another for their disrespecting us we will somehow become less of a person in our own eyes if we just show them love by forgiving them? Christian, never be afraid of your freedom to forgive. The Christian life IS love! God IS love, and His elect are creatures of love, products of love, children of love. Sin always endeavours to convince us that we will somehow miss out if we do not engage in it. You will not lose anything by becoming more Christian, more Christ-like.
Bitterness comes from hatred — forgiveness comes out of love. Love is not love unless it is altogether freed from anything and everything that is not love. Forgiveness is not true forgiveness if it is not altogether freed from anything and everything that is not willing to love. Love and forgiveness affects sin, sin does not affect the impenetrability of true love and forgiveness. Sin cannot influence true godly love and forgiveness, but real love and forgiveness always dispenses with sin by loving and forgiving the sinner. It is not another’s sin which prevents us from forgiving, but our own unwillingness to forgive. The bias that our sinful nature is naturally drawn to after someone has sinned against us must, and can only be, quashed by love. Only by a decision to love will forgiveness come easy. Unforgiveness is always the result of our sin, and not the sins of others perpetrated against us. I literally struggle with the concept of a Christian man not wanting to forgive. I cannot understand how one can willingly live in unforgiveness, and yet believe they are forgiven by God. How does one revel in the mercy and forgiveness of God, and shouting it from the rooftops, and yet refuse to give that same mercy and forgiveness to others? If you cannot say, ‘I love God with all my heart and my neighbour as myself’, you have a root of bitterness inside you that has blossomed into unforgiveness. Do something about it now, for if you do not confront unforgiveness in your life, it will only increase. Unforgiveness will never voluntarily leave you unless you forcibly evict it from your life. To remain in stubborn opposition to one of the core ingredients of salvation by willfully choosing not to forgive one’s fellow man, is a sign of a person “…in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity…” (Acts 8:23). It is a truly troubled soul that will not forgive. Unforgiveness is the manifestation of bitterness. It may be a silent bitterness, an invisible bitterness, a maliciousness that only manifests itself in silent words and thoughts, but nevertheless it remains very real unless it is defeated by love, mercy, grace, compassion, pity and the real forgiveness they inevitably lead to.
If you do not love and forgive, you have bowed your knees to yourself pampering yourself with all sorts of unbiblical excuses in an effort to justify your lack of compassion, empathy, love and mercy. Surely, you are among all men the most miserable. There you are with an abundance of the gold of forgiveness in your hands given to you by God Himself, and you will not share it with your neighbour. There are many excuses set up by the person who will not forgive that have blinded them to the reality that if they expect forgiveness then they, too, must forgive. What right does any Christian have not to love and forgive his neighbor as God has loved and forgiven the Christian? Moreover, what right does any Christian have to not love and forgive his fellow Christian whom Christ died for and God has fully loved, unconditionally forgiven and no longer condemns! The unforgiving man has ruthlessly set himself up as judge, jury and executioner. The truly forgiven man is a truly blessed man, and will only seek to share his joy of being forgiven by forgiving others, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psa. 32:1 cf. Rom. 4:7). “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love…” Prov. 17:9). To not forgive a fellow Christian whom God has forgiven must be among the most insipid of sins. The distastefulness of which is displayed clearly in the parable of the king and the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. We as Christians were guilty of our sins, but are now forgiven, and we must treat our fellow believers precisely as Christ has dealt with us: by grace, love, mercy and forgiveness. The truly forgiven will always and inevitably forgive. Whether it is an instant forgiveness, or one which has taken years to be realized, the Christian will invariably forgive.
Christians are to “…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). This is the beautiful way Christians are to live their lives, and it is the only way by which forgiveness will flow freely through us toward all those who have sinned against us. This is the way you become more and more like Jesus. This is living the Christian life. Jesus said: “…I am meek and lowly in heart…” (Matt. 11:29). Only an ungodly attitude can prevent us from being meek people who are lowly in heart. Only an ungodly attitude can prevent us from forgiving as we are expected to forgive. The Christian is to never grieve the Holy Spirit of God by way of bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil speaking and malice toward our fellow creatures. The only way to do this is to be kind to each other and tender hearted “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:2), always forgiving each other in the exact same manner God for the sake of Christ has forgiven all His people. Be the people of God and love and forgive your brethren, love and forgive your neighbor and love and forgive your fellow man. Forgive not only those who are far from you, but those who are closest to you, your spouse, brother, sister, father, mother, son, daughter, etc. “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:30-32). “…laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocricies, and envies, and all evil speaking” (1 Pet. 2:1).
You will never be able to properly forgive anyone their sins against you if you do not walk in all lowliness, meekness, gentleness with longsuffering and forbearing your fellow man in love. Love and forgiveness will freely flow from you to others when you determinedly put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, evil speaking and malice from you, and replace all that ugliness with the beauty of kindness toward others, tender heartedness and God-like forgiveness. This is what it is to be a Christian. The true Christian does not only talk the talk, but he also walks the walk! Forgiveness is not something which we must agree needs to be done, it must actually be done. Don’t just talk about forgiveness, DO IT! Don’t just agree with it in theory, but ensure your actions coincide with the love that has been shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit of God. Christians should always be striving for the bond of peace especially with regards to fellow believers and doubly so if that family member—son or daughter, father or mother, husband or wife is also a Christian. Christians recognize each other as those who have been forgiven by God, but many fail to realize the fact that Christians should be as easily identifiable as those who forgive others and love their brethren. 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). How can anyone pick you out from a crowd of unforgiving unbelievers, how can anyone pick you as the Christian when you are as unforgiving as any non-Christian is? How can you prove, or defend, your Christianity by your unforgiveness? The Christian is to love as he is loved and forgive as he is forgiven. You cannot exhibit love without forgiveness. Unforgiveness is not indicative of Christianity.
God’s love for His people is a forgiving love, a compassionate and merciful love, and a Christian’s love must mirror this love toward others, or he is not loving at all. A Christian who is not loving is not living the Christian life. “To violate the law of love is to live in unforgiveness.” A Christian’s love is because God loved him first, and a Christian’s forgiveness of those who sin against him is because the Christian himself is forgiven by God. A Christian loves and forgives because of God. God is the Christian’s motivation to love and forgive all, always. A Christian’s love is an advocate for the one who sins against him, not a prosecutor. Being empathic towards others, loving all others makes for a smooth path to forgiveness and remaining a forgiving person. When God IS your LIFE loving and forgiving your fellow man comes naturally. When God rules your life you do not even think of not forgiving your neighbour as you are forgiven by God. God is the Christian’s model for life and how to live it. The true Christian patterns his life after God, and acts toward others as God has treated him. When God is your life you cannot imagine living a life without forgiveness toward anyone. Putting others first by being meek and lowly, longsuffering and forbearing in love is the Christian way. Pridefully placing yourself above others is the way of the world and is what every Christian should repent of. Behind all of this, is a love for God that is as real and palpable as God’s love for His people is. Why would any Christian not want to forgive as they themselves are forgiven? What possible opposition would any Christian have to treating others as God has treated them. If you are truly thankful for being forgiven, why will you not forgive as you are forgiven? If every believer adopted the following attitude, forgiveness would pose no problem, no difficulty, at all: All Christians are to “…in lowliness of mind…esteem other(s) better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). Jesus must exponentially increase in our lives while we must decrease (see Jn. 3:30). We must become more humble each day and less prideful. We must become more like Him, and less like we formerly were.
The Christian who has just sinned against you is forgiven of God. Why will you not forgive them as God has forgiven you both? Who are you not to forgive one who is forgiven and loved of God and for whom Christ laid down His precious life? The blood of Jesus Christ, the God of the universe, was shed for that Christian brother, that Christian sister: WHY WILL YOU NOT FORGIVE THEM!! Why do you persecute them through your unforgiveness of them? What in the world is going on in your heart and in your relationship with God when you will not even forgive a fellow Christian! You should be outraged at the first sign of any unforgiveness in you. You must banish all unforgiveness with love. Humble yourself in the sight of God and have done with the pride that has led you into unforgiveness. Who are you not to humble yourself before God and forgive your brethren their sins against you? “…all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble…And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (1 Pet. 5:5; Eph. 4:32). Things that aid in the forgiveness of others are humility and, meekness, not pride and arrogance; grace and mercy not vengeance and cruelty. The Christian is not to allow his anger toward another to last longer than a day, for if you allow your anger to go unchecked you will be giving the Devil a foothold in your life. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the Devil” (Eph. 4:26,27). What do you think anger does? Anger leads to an unloving attitude and unforgiveness. Unresolved anger fuels unforgiveness. “Anger ventilated often hurries towards forgiveness; anger concealed often hardens into revenge.” Unresolved anger, repressed anger and emotional avoidance all conspire to produce an unloving attitude which unforgiveness voraciously feeds upon. The welcome mat is laid out for the Devil when you allow the sun to go down upon your wrath and lead you into the bowels of unforgiveness. Satan is fully accommodated and suitably comfortable in the heart that is a refuge for unforgiveness. The longer you allow yourself to be in the gall of bitterness and unforgiveness, the more difficult it will be to forgive. Unforgiveness hardens the heart, pollutes the soul, and sears the conscience. During the course of unforgiveness, resentment and evil loom larger and larger in one’s life and have more of a corrupting influence. To not forgive is to harm others. Unforgiveness is self love. Unforgiveness by a Christian is a seditious, violent rebellion against the love of God shed abroad in their heart. Unforgiveness toward even one person will affect one’s entire life. The subtleties of a man’s desperately wicked heart and the machinations of Satan’s lust to destroy are so cleverly disguised that those who have walked long in unforgiveness seldom realize the corrupting influence of the unforgiveness they have allowed to reside within them.
Unforgiveness is the cold-blooded rejection, a conscious unwillingness to take up the responsibility all Christians have to love and forgive all men especially fellow Christians particularly if those Christians are also family members. The Christian has an all-encompassing, loophole-free covenantal obligation to forgive their fellow believer. Christians are commanded to “…keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3), with one another. How many relationships and families have been torn apart, not by sin, but by unforgiven sin. How many people have been murdered, literally and figuratively through hatred in the heart, as a result of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is deadly. Unforgiveness is sin. There is no virtue in unforgiveness. Sometimes we are angry at another person and take on an unforgiving attitude even when they have not sinned against us. We become angry because they did not respond or act in the way we believe they should have. All such anger is caused by a prideful, unforgiving attitude. To exercise an unwillingness to forgive is to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. “Ephesians 4:30 tells us that we should not grieve the Spirit, ‘And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption'. We grieve the Spirit by living like the pagans (see Eph. 4:17-19), by lying (4:25), by being angry (4:26-27), by stealing (4:28), by cursing (4:29), by being bitter (4:31), by being unforgiving (4:32), and by being sexually immoral (5:3-5). To grieve the Spirit is to act out in a sinful manner, whether it is in thought only or in both thought and deed. Both quenching and grieving the Spirit are similar in their effects. Both hinder a godly lifestyle. Both happen when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, and farther away from the world and sin. Just as we do not like to be grieved, and just as we do not seek to quench what is good—so we should not grieve or quench the Holy Spirit by refusing to follow His leading.” “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22,23 cf. Phil. 1:10,11; 4:8). “For such things law has no condemnation, and therefore they are removed beyond the sphere of law. This is the first and obvious meaning; it may be noticed, however, that these delicate Christian graces are above law as well as beyond. The ruder legal system of commands, sanctioned by punishment, would have no power to produce them; they can only grow in a more genial and softer soil, under the direct influence of the Spirit.” Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance make for a loving, forgiving person. Think upon these beautiful things, God does. Love “…thinketh no evil…” (1 Cor. 13:5). “…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” (Phil. 4:8 cf. Phil. 1:10,11). Meditating upon these things is what the Christian mind should be occupied with. These are the elements that make for a free and joyous life no longer oppressed by bitterness and spite, but rather surrendered to love and forgiveness. Ensure that these things fill your mind and they will be converted into actions that please the Lord and not grieve His Holy Spirit. “…the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (Jas. 3:17,18).
It is a sad fact of life that so many who have been forgiven by God, are unwilling to forgive their fellow man in the same exact way. Many who are unwilling to forgive, conveniently interpret their disobedience as ‘difficulty to forgive’ rather than a blatant refusal to forgive, for they are excessively preoccupied with the actions of others, rather than their own. Their outrage is exclusively focused on the sins of others instead of the unforgiveness in their hearts. They put forgiveness in the ‘too hard’ basket, when they are really putting it into the ‘don’t want to’ basket. If you are going to constantly and consistently think on what was done against you, then, of course, you will find it ‘difficult to forgive’. However, if you train your mind to think upon whatsoever is good, and the glorious fact that God loves and has forgiven you unconditionally, you will soon be producing the fruit of the Spirit and forgiving your fellow man instead of hating him. To not forgive is something that should not even factor into a Christian’s thinking when they have been sinned against. Unforgiveness should never be considered an option for the Christian. To forgive from the heart is to resist the temptation to rebel against God and hate your neighbor. Love God and love your neighbour is the only Christian way. Unforgiveness is not an option for the Christian, it is sin. There is no way of escaping the fact that you will be sinned against on this earth, but it is not what is done or said against us that matters, it is how the Christian responds. Everyone falls off their bike, but it is only what happens next that really matters. Do you want to get back on the bike and get on with life, or do you prefer to sit on the ground and cry about what just happened until you have drawn adequate attention to yourself? The hurt you experience in life is never as important as how you respond to it. Christians should not be outraged at what was done to them or said against them, any outrage should be aimed at the slightest hint of unforgiveness in them. Start to get angry at your sin of unforgiveness, dear Christian, and stop directing your anger towards those who have harmed you. There is no use going to God and protesting how badly you have been sinned against when God looks at you with loving eyes and a heart that has forgiven you of all your most lurid sins. There is no use in going to God and blaming your sin of unforgiveness on the sins of others committed against you. Your sin is your fault! Take responsibility and repent. There is no use going to God and protesting how badly you have been sinned against by your Christian brother, for God is not only your Advocate but also your brother’s Advocate! ‘Forgive your brother, forgive your sister for whom My Son died as I have forgiven you’, is the only response you will receive from God. God will never defend you in your unforgiveness, but will always ask why you who have been forgiven by God will not in turn forgive your brethren also. FORGIVENESS IS ALWAYS THE ISSUE, NOT WHAT IS TO BE FORGIVEN.
Every fellow Christian for whom Christ died, is forgiven by God, and should have no qualms, no hesitation, in forgiving others. Who are we, as forgiven Christians, to not forgive those whose sins have been forgiven by God Himself? Who are we, as forgiven Christians, to not forgive those whose sins have also been blotted out by the blood of Christ? It is to do despite unto Christ and His death on the cross, if we do not forgive the sins committed against us for which Christ died, and has eternally forgiven. No Christian has any right to condemn a fellow believer as guilty whose guilt has been taken away by Christ. No Christian has any right to shut out another Christian from their lives. No Christian has any right to shut out a husband or wife or any other family member from their lives. No Christian has any right not to forgive! If you are a Christian, you MUST forgive, you SHOULD forgive, you WILL forgive and you DO forgive. All sin, our sins, are, primarily, against God, and yet God has forgiven all the sins of all His people. Christ’s sacrifice has paved the way for all forgiveness, God’s forgiveness of us, and our forgiveness of each other. What could possibly be preventing any Christian from forgiving all others, especially their brethren, freely and from the heart? “Pride is behind all lack of love. All indifference to the needs of others and their feelings and their weaknesses. It is the source of all hasty and critical judgments. All manifestations of temper, all touchiness, and irritation, all feelings of bitterness and all unforgiveness come from a spirit of pride.” Engaging in evil, whether in the privacy of our thoughts, or in our public deeds, words and actions, is never without its consequences. You may not be experiencing them now, or even realize they are currently happening to you because of your sin of unforgiveness, but the unforgiving Christian will always reap what he has sown. You cannot mock God with your unforgiveness, for those who show no mercy will receive NO mercy! “…he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy...” (Jas. 2:13 cf. Gal. 6:7). No matter how well you believe you are doing in your Christian life, unforgiveness is the sure sign that you are not doing anywhere near as good as you think you are. “…let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Face yourself, admit your unforgiveness, ask God to forgive you and then take up your responsibility and go and forgive your neighbor and love them as yourself.
The Christian has every reason to forgive those who have sinned against him, and absolutely no reason not to forgive. Another person’s sin against you is no excuse not to love them. Another person’s sin against you does not give you the right to not forgive them. All the unforgiver has is a cavalcade of excuses, none of which find any support in the Scriptures. Christ Jesus the Lord is a Christian’s motivation to forgive, so what possible justification could any Christian have in not completely forgiving others? If you truly love Christ you will never reject your obligation to forgive everyone from the heart. No Christian can find any support for unforgiveness in the Word of God, so why do you persist in your unforgiveness. How could any Christian live comfortably knowing they have refused to forgive someone, anyone, from the heart as they are forgiven by God. How can any Christian live with themselves knowing their unforgiveness is the wrecking ball that has brought down a friendship, relationship and even a marriage. To refuse to forgive, and ensure one has forgiven others to the point where their lives are lived as if no sin had been committed against them, is anti-Christian. Unforgiveness will only beget more unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is diametrically opposed to everything that being a Christian means. Of what use is an apple tree UNLESS IT PRODUCES APPLES! An apple tree can still go by the name ‘apple tree’, but if it produces no apples, BIG DEAL! The ‘Christian’ who does not forgive, who is happy living in unabated unforgiveness, has no right to claim to be a child, a product, a creation of God’s love. Not forgiving is Anti-Christ living. Every sin of unforgiveness is a sin against God and against the one who is refused forgiveness. Anti-Christ living is refusing to love and forgive God’s way. Forgiveness is not a suggestion made by God, it is a command from God to all His people to forgive as He has forgiven them. The Christian is to love, forgive and to be holy, for God loves, forgives and is Holy. “…as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15,16). When an enemy hates you, love them back. When a brother sins against you, forgive them. When someone curses you, bless them. When someone despitefully uses you and persecutes you, pray for them, “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45 see also Matt. 5:44; Jn. 12:36). Doing these things is being the children of your Father, it is being holy, for He is holy. Love, bless, pray, forgive, be merciful and compassionate, there are no other options for the Christian, and he will seek no alternative. By these things we show that we are the joyful and free children of God, products of His love and forgiveness. How can you justify not forgiving anyone their sins against you, and then proceed to thank God for, and rejoice in, His forgiveness of your sins against Him, as well as your sins against others? How can one bathe in the beauty and love of God, and yet choose not to forgive one’s neighbor, let alone one’s brother or sister in Christ?
Importantly, the one who knows he is not forgiven by his fellow believer must realise that any unforgiveness toward themselves must be forgiven by them. No Christian has any right to harbor a grudge, or to entertain any unforgiveness, or hold onto any bitterness toward another Christian whom he knows has not fully, Biblically forgiven them. No sin committed against us gives us a license to sin. No sin gives any Christian a license not to forgive. No sin can give us a 'get out of forgiveness free' card. No sin committed against us gives us a free ticket to sin in return, but rather should prompt us to forgive. No sin committed against us gives us any right to sin in return, but is a clarion call to forgive. The sins of others are used by God as a reminder for us to always forgive in return. Love by forgiving — forgiveness because of love. The Christian has no right to be unforgiving toward anyone who has committed any sin against them. We have no right to hold a grudge and pursue any kind of payback upon those who sin against us by not forgiving us our sin against them. “Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (Jas. 5:9 cf. Lev. 19:18). Christians are not to murmur, or complain, they are not to whine and moan to others, or say anything against those who have sinned against them, but are commanded to be empathetic and sympathetic, merciful and compassionate toward the sinner by loving and forgiving them in all manner of conversation and thought, for they, too, are sinners. Show mercy, for you have been shown mercy by God; be gracious, for God is gracious toward you, and love always, for God always loves you. Love let’s go, but LOVE NEVER LEAVES. True love lets go, but it never stops. True love is forever. True love does not fade away and it most assuredly never stops. That which is most often interpreted as love, is nothing but vacillating, undependable, emotions which wax and wane throughout one’s life. True love is unconditional commitment. Love that ceases to be was never love in the first place. True love is forever. Forgiveness is forever. Forgiveness always draws one closer to the sinner, it never abandons them. God’s words are most clear: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18). To not forgive because one has not forgiven you is to avenge yourself, which is something strictly forbidden to the Christian. “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); “To Me belongeth vengeance and recompence…” (Deut. 32:35). To not forgive is to bear a grudge. To not forgive is to avenge yourself against the brother you are commanded to forgive and love as yourself.
Any act of retaliation is the responsibility of the retaliator, not the one who is being retaliated against. To bear grudges is to harbor ungodly feelings and to nurture unhealthy emotions and attitudes toward any who have sinned against you, be they enemies or brethren. “The injured man is to banish from memory the injury he has suffered, even if the offender has made no reparation.” “Many believers still seem to be ignorant of the tactics of the enemy. They coddle offenses and grudges as though they were ‘pets’ to be fed and watered. There is probably nothing else that has been more devastating to those claiming to be Christians than unforgiveness. It has split churches, destroyed families, and ruined lives forever! No wonder Christ spent so much time on the subject. Jesus taught that loving God and loving one another were the highest ideals of His followers, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' (Matt. 22:37-39). Love and forgiveness is the most basic standard of Christianity — it is the mark of the followers of Christ — the highest display of spiritual maturity! Love is the evidence necessary to convict you as a true follower of Jesus Christ. ‘By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (Jn. 13:35). Therefore, Satan’s secret weapon is not really so secret after all! Every Christian can be totally protected and immune from its effect by merely obeying this simple Scripture: ‘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’ (1 Jn. 4:7,8).” Act on how God has lovingly dealt with you, not as those who have sinned against you. Reflect the goodness and love of God, not the sinfulness and hatred of mankind.
Forgiving is loving and loving is forgiving. The two can never be separated. Forgiveness is the music of love. You cannot choose to love, and yet be unwilling to fully forgive your fellow man. Likewise, you cannot choose to forgive without loving the person you have forgiven. To love is to forgive, and to forgive is to love. Forgiveness is loving and loving is forgiving everyone’s wrongs done against you. To love is to do no one any harm, and to do all we can to do them every good. Unforgiveness is not only the withholding of love, it actually metes out and promotes evil. To forgive is to choose to love someone as yourself, it is to treat them as God has treated you, to look upon them as God looks upon all His people: with tender mercy and compassion. All love and forgiveness want to do is love and forgive, so when you are functioning according to these most vitally essential elements of Christianity you will have no problem loving and forgiving anyone, even an unforgiving fellow believer, as well as your enemies. Unforgiveness comes from pridefully making yourself number one in your life. It comes from placing yourself and your interests above all others, including God. Putting others first, wanting to be a meek person, a compassionate person, a gentle, humble and merciful person is the only way you are ever going to actually enjoy and revel in loving and forgiving others. No one deserves to be forgiven. Sin does not merit forgiveness, only punishment. Forgiveness comes from a gracious heart. Just like no one deserves to be saved, or deserves to be saved because of anything they have done, but are conversely saved by and because of grace alone, so too, forgiveness can only come from a heart that is filled with grace and not vengeance. Walk in grace, love and forgiveness towards one and all and you will be a person who will be at peace and filled with joy unspeakable. Be gracious to others as God is gracious to you. Love others as God loves you and forgive all others as God has forgiven you: no resentment, no conditions, no limits, no partiality and no prejudice.