LOVE AND FORGIVENESS (PART 7)
Love and forgiveness share the closest of relations. As we have learned, you cannot have one without the other. True godly love makes one willing to forgive, eagerly wanting to forgive, and desiring nothing but to forgive those who have sinned against us, no matter who they are or what they have done. The true Christian is not so much disturbed by the sin committed against him as he is with detecting the slightest spark of an unforgiving attitude in him toward the sinner. The true Christian is more concerned with the spiritual welfare of the brother who has sinned against him, than any hurt he has suffered. Forgiving an unrepentant person can be the starting point that leads them on the road to repentance. To love and forgive is to submit oneself wholly to God and to resist the evil of unforgiveness that is seemingly always ready to destroy us in any way it can. The idea, dear Christian, is to submit yourself to God and resist the Devil, not the other way round. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you…” (Jas. 4:7,8). Unwillingness to forgive is submitting yourself to Satan, and resisting God. Many have procrastinated for so long concerning forgiveness, that they have become comfortably numb concerning the need to forgive. Their lives have become acclimatized to unforgiveness. Hearts that have become so hardened to what they should do rest comfortably in places where they should not be. It is never too late to forgive. If you are a person who knows they have not properly forgiven someone, NOW is the time! Forgiveness matters. Call that person NOW, visit that person NOW, write to that person NOW and let them know you have forgiven them, ask them to forgive you your unforgiveness toward them, and then, most importantly, resume your life with them as if they had never sinned against you. That’s what God has done with you, and daily does with you, Christian, so why will you not act in the same way toward others? LET LOVE DOMINATE YOUR LIFE.
Forgiveness without reconciliation is unsubstantive. The whole point of love is to forgive, and the whole point to forgiveness is reconciliation. What difference would love and forgiveness make if reconciliation was not their goal? There is no love and forgiveness if the relationship is not restored. Why would you not be bursting at the seams to treat others as God has treated you? Grab hold of freedom and love and forgive as God loves and has forgiven you. Show your appreciation to God for your forgiveness by forgiving others the same way. Any resistance to such an attitude of love and compassion is energized by nothing else than unforgiveness and a wicked, evil heart. If you think that you are loving God by not forgiving your neighbor, you are in an extremely deceived state. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (1 Jn. 2:9). You cannot truly be loving God while not loving your neighbor as yourself, let alone a fellow Christian, let alone a fellow Christian who is your husband, wife, child, father, mother, brother or sister. FORGIVENESS PROVES LOVE. FORGIVENESS IS THE EVIDENCE OF LOVE. Allow the love of God for you to manifest itself through you toward others. Show the love of God in you by forgiving all others. To live in love, to practice forgiveness 24 hours per day, is to love one another on a different plane, it is to live on another level that can only bless you and all those you have forgiven and now live with nothing but love for. Pray for your enemies, love your enemies by forgiving your enemies. Pray for your brethren, love your brethren by forgiving your brethren. Pray for those who have sinned against you, love those who have sinned against you by forgiving those who have sinned against you. To love and forgive is to live a joyous life. To love and forgive is to fully, actively show your appreciation toward God for His love and forgiveness toward you. ‘I love you so much dear Lord, I appreciate your forgiveness of me to the point that I am going to forgive all who sin against me in the same way. I refuse to allow my flesh or any devil to hinder me in my unconditionally forgiving all who have sinned against me. Dear Lord, cause me to love and forgive others as You love and have forgiven me.’ To love and forgive your fellow man is to love God. The greatest way to actively worship God is to love and forgive all who have sinned against you. To forgive others is a celebration of God’s forgiveness of you and love toward you. The best way to love God is by obediently reciprocating that love toward others.
Not being willing to forgive shows a sinfully stubborn heart and mind that are not willing to let go of past hurt. Being unwilling to forgive is placing yourself above others, it is putting your wants above the command of God. The only person stopping you from forgiving is you. It is not the other person, nor is it their sin, but you alone. Your unforgiveness, and any ‘difficulty’ you are experiencing in forgiving, is not the fault of the person who has sinned against you. Unforgiveness is wholly the responsibility of the person who will not forgive. Blaming the sin or the one who sinned against you is nothing but self-deception. Blaming your sin of unforgiveness on someone else is ridiculous. What you do or do not do is NEVER the fault of someone else. None of your peers can ever be blamed for what you do. So, dear Christian, take up the responsibility that you have been given by God, and forgive your neighbour as God has forgiven you. It is the unforgiver—his will and actions—not the sinner and his actions which are the underlying cause behind unforgiveness. As with any temptation, the battle to forgive is lost only when we do not fight hard enough for victory. Forgiveness is victory over sin, and love is victory over everything. Forgiveness is an insistence that no sin committed against you will be permitted to influence you to sin in return. Forgiveness is repaying sin with love. The fight to forgive must be maintained by a strict and disciplined internal vigilance and prayer. To forgive is a decision. True forgiveness is a decision which is always supported by action. Forgiveness is a quality decision born out of love. Forgiveness is an enduring decision to follow the Lord’s way in every situation where someone has sinned against you. What is the procedure when one has been sinned against? Forgive unconditionally and love without any limitation. Forgiveness is a refusal to bow to the impulse for vengeance to be exacted, and an insistence that love prevail.
The Christian loves and forgives others because he himself is loved and forgiven by God. Failure to forgive is a sin. Any failure to forgive is a failure to acknowledge God’s love and forgiveness of you. Failure to forgive as God has forgiven us is a sin. Failure to forgive is not an ‘I tried hard but just couldn’t’, situation that may be forgotten, and counted as something we could not do and then move on with our lives. Forgiveness is never something which cannot be done, but only ever that which will not be done. Unforgiveness is never that which cannot be reversed. Forgiveness is never impossible, for unforgiveness is always a choice we make not to forgive. To love is to rebel against unforgiveness. Wherever there is unforgiveness, forgiveness shall always remain irrepressibly and decidedly possible. All forgiveness requires to be put into play is your decision to love. It may not appear as though you have actually made a conscious decision not to forgive, but, just like forgiveness, unforgiveness always comes down to your choice, to your will, to what you really want. You can play at being a Christian, but what you do reveals what you really are. Your bias against a person reveals a bias against love, against obeying God. Love and forgiveness, hatred and unforgiveness, it’s all about the will. It’s all about what you really want. Oh you can play games with yourself, and with God, but none of this changes the undeniable fact that if you do not forgive unconditionally, or if your forgiveness comes with strings attached, you have sinfully chosen to not forgive the way God has forgiven you. The pressing need to forgive is ever present with the believer. It is just as essentially urgent, perhaps even more so, to forgive 20 years after a sin was committed against you as it was 20 seconds after it was committed. In fact, the pressing need, the urgency to forgive never diminishes, but only increases with time. The Christian can never escape his obligation to forgive. Don’t be one of those people who is left with the bitter taste of not having forgiven a person who ends up dying before you forgive them. There is no use in forgiving them once they are dead. So many very, very sad people live their lives in accordance with the degree of hurt they have received from others instead of letting all that hurt and collection of unsavoury experiences go, by choosing to love and forgive instead of not loving but hating. So many sad people, including false Christians and real Christians, live their lives according to how people treat them, and not how they are commanded by God to treat people. The idea is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, not as they have done unto you (see Matt. 7:12; Lk. 6:31 cf. Matt. 6:12). When you do not forgive, you are doing unto others as they have done unto you. Forgiveness is doing unto others as you would have others do unto you and as God has done unto you. The word from the Lord is “…as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Lk. 6:31). The Christian is above the life of doing as is done to them, for they follow the Lord God and have learned to do to others as God has dealt with them. The Christian’s entire life is based on the principle of love no matter the situation or circumstances. Love never takes a holiday. True forgiveness can only come from love unlimited. Does God love you and forgive you unconditionally? Yes? Then go and do likewise to one and all!
Christians should be living their lives commensurate with how God has treated them, and not in accord with how they have been treated by others. Some extremely sad people go about their lives collecting all the injustices committed against them, keeping score of people’s sins rather than choosing to forgive and forget. “If you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.” Simply because you are reminded of what the person did to you in the past, is no reason to sit there and condemnatorially relive all the pain you experienced. You are not making yourself any more righteous by concentrating on the sins of others! People who focus their attention on the sins of others often miss the gravity of their own sins (see Matt. 7:5). The Christian has absolutely no right to unforgiveness. Bad memories do not justify or legitimize unforgiveness. No amount of hurt can ever justify sinning against another by not forgiving them their sin. Forgiveness deals with bad memories by loving the sinner not destroying the sinner through vengeful actions or thoughts. If you still feel bitterness, or even hate, you still have not dealt with the person’s sin against you. People say, ‘I can forgive the person, but I can never return to an ongoing relationship with them because they bring back so many bad memories for me’. This is just another tactic unforgiveness uses to excuse us from having to properly, biblically forgive. The Christian life is not to be based on feelings and emotions, but upon the foundation of a decisional love, a covenantal love which can only be brought to fruition by forgiveness and reconciliation. “Love is a verb, not a noun.” Unwillingness to forgive always seeks to relieve us from the obligation to obey God’s command to love our neighbour. Believe it or not, how you allow bad memories to make you feel are your responsibility. You are the problem, not the one who sinned against you. If you chose to love and forgive that person you would not allow your life to be penetratingly assailed with bad memories that seek only to restrain you from loving and forgiving. Forgiveness is letting go of bad memories. Forgiveness lets go of sin like hot coal, unforgiveness just allows the coal to burn you to the bone. If you have properly forgiven as you are forgiven, dear Christian, memories of the past would be dealt with by the love and mercy that is presently flowing through you from God. Bad memories can only be fought and conquered with love, mercy and forgiveness. You will always be stuck in the past if you do not act in the present and forgive into the future. Forgiveness is the arch enemy of hurtful memories and is always ready to extinguish them at your command. Remembering, choosing to dwell upon past hurt and all those nasty things others have done to you and said against you is just perpetuating and exponentially magnifying that sin and pain. I guarantee you the longer you refuse to forgive the bigger the sin done against you will seem, and the harder it will feel to forgive. The longer you refuse to forgive the more impractical and crazier the entire concept of forgiveness and restoring a right relationship will seem. The more time you allow to pass the more obscured your vision will be concerning your obligation to forgive. Unforgiveness often tends to take things out of proportion, because it places you first, making you actually feel good about not forgiving. Unforgiveness is the supreme act of selfishness. The proper perception of love is distorted when we choose not to forgive. Unconditional forgiveness blows all this to kingdom come. The strange thing about unforgiveness is that it always leads to the amplification of the sin or sins which have been committed against us, thus increasing our twisted logic in thinking we have every right not to forgive.
“Without forgiveness and love, you will live with resentment, bitterness, malice and strife which will result in more pain.” So often the pain which the person refusing to forgive feels is not from the sin done against them, but from their refusal to forgive it! Unforgiveness does no one any favors. “You can never love without forgiving. Forgiveness deepens your ability to love and frees you from pain.” Forgiveness is not actually about you, but the other guy. Forgiveness shows the level of status God has in your life. Forgiveness places the person who has sinned against you ahead of yourself. Loving God is obeying God and His command to love and forgive others as He loves and has forgiven you. You cannot love if you do not forgive. You will not forgive if you do not love. “There is always one person in a relationship who loves more, cares more and even forgives more.” BE THAT PERSON!! Love does not wait for anyone to do anything before it loves. Be that person! Love does not wait for apologies or repentance. Be that person! Forgiveness does not wait for repentance or compensation before it forgives. Be that person! Love simply loves and forgiveness simply forgives. The principle of love declares you can never overdo forgiveness. Forgiveness is never out of place. Forgiveness is always the right thing to do. Forgiveness is love, and you can never love more than what you need to. Genuine love ensures that forgiveness can never be overdone. The reality of your relationship with God, of your love for God, will be seen in how you treat your fellow man (see 1 Jn. 4:20 cf. Rom. 12:9). Act on the love of God that is shed abroad in your heart dear Christian. Forget what the world has taught you and what sin and Hollywood have programmed you with. Ignore the evil tempting thoughts, feelings and emotions that seek to lead you to vengeance and encourage spite and payback, and act only on love and forgiveness which brings glory to God and establishes peace among men. Above all things seek for peace among men.
Godly love causes the Christian to eagerly forgive from the heart, with never a trace of reluctance. Be eager to forgive as God has forgiven you. We are not here to establish an empire which will satisfy our ego and pride, we are here to show forth the love of God in us, and to project a gentle, humble and meek character to the glory of God, not a prideful character to the glory of ourselves. “Just as there are no limits to the actions we should take in avoiding sin, so also there should be no limits to the extent of our forgiveness of a brother.” Be as the Lord is: “For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee” (Psa. 86:5). Never lose the mindset of loving, and you will always be ready and remain ready to forgive. In accord with our sinful nature we instinctively seek to fight back when we are injured by another’s sin, but dear Christian it is time to lay down our swords and take up the shield of faith, and love as we are loved by God. Forgiveness puts the sins of others against us to death and allows love to run freely toward those who have injured us. The sins of others thrive on our unforgiveness. A Christian should approach the subject of forgiveness with joy in their heart, and not with any hesitation in their soul. There is nothing to fear by forgiving. Love has no fear, no hesitation about it, for love is bold and free. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 Jn. 4:18). It is equally true to say he that is not made perfect in love, feareth. A Christian is a person loved, elected, saved and forgiven by God, and who is always ready to forgive as he has been forgiven. God loves His people and demonstrates the reality of that love by forgiving them all their sin. God says “…I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34). This is what our response to the sins of others committed against us should be. This is the response of love.
“Forgiveness is the virtue of the courageous, the response of the forgiven, the mercy of the just.” For the Christian, to not remember sin must not be considered to be some magical act achievable only by some. It is all in the attitude. ‘I will to not remember that person’s sin against me’, is the attitude of the Christian who really wants to love and forgive his neighbor and resume a right relationship with them. How can you love and forgive when your mind is full of what the other person did to you? Love and forgiveness crash through the sins of others. Love and forgiveness are always intense, always unrelenting. Love and forgiveness are subservient to nothing and no one but the will of Almighty God. Turn the other way when you are reminded of that’s person’s sin. Look not at the sins of others against you, but at God and His love and forgiveness of you, and then go and do likewise to your neighbour. Believe it or not, we as humans can most assuredly keep things from our minds. We can block things out by replacing them with other thoughts. Just like the one who is unwilling to forgive blocks out thoughts of forgiveness and his responsibility to forgive, so too, we can stop ourselves from being reminded of the sins of others against us, thereby shutting down any vengeful thoughts. We must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (see 2 Cor. 10:4,5). Think upon beautiful things, gentle things, things that make for peace and cause love to increase and forgiveness to flourish in our hearts. The Christian life is not about seeing that justice is served against those who have sinned against us, but that love is shown and forgiveness freely given. Where is the Christian that does not want to be as his Lord is? Where is the Christian who is not ready to forgive? Are you that Christian? Are you going to knowingly, willing wallow in unforgiveness and victim-hood all the while knowing you have been fully forgiven by God, or are you determined to give to others what you have been so mightily blessed with by God? Just when are you going to stop playing the victim and start being the victor!
Loving and forgiving is at times not easy. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult especially with the mix of emotions that often swirl around in us, but the Christian needs to remind himself that he is a new creature created in Christ Jesus, and that love and forgiveness are never impossible. The Christian is created by Love to love. To love and forgive is how the Christian is called to live. Love and forgiveness await only your decision to utilize them, so you can be a blessing to others and bring glory to God. No one can forgive for you. Love and forgiveness can only be let loose upon all who sin against you, by you when you undo the shackles of a sinful disposition. A man can never run short of forgiveness toward others, as long as the love of God is in his heart. The difficulty in forgiving comes only when the focus is on what has been done to us, instead of how God has unconditionally loved and forgiven us. When someone sins against you turn to God, look to God, and remind yourself how much He loves you, and of how much He has forgiven you. Forgiveness is made easy when we choose to focus on what God has done for us, on how much He loves us, on how much He has forgiven us and on how much God wants us to love and forgive our neighbor as God Himself loves and has forgiven us. Only fools do not forgive. Your God, dear Christian, is the perennial Advocate for forgiveness, so why will you not forgive. Nothing on this earth is so powerful as to permanently hinder us from loving and forgiving others. It is only our will that prevents us from forgiving, from loving our neighbour as ourselves. Nothing, without our willful compliance, can stop us from forgiving everyone no matter what they have done or said against us. Loving and forgiving is a matter of the will. Emotion is not the foundation for true love and forgiveness. Some people seek to explain away, or excuse, their unforgiveness of others by waiting for feelings before, or so that, they can then forgive. God did not wait for His people to become His friends before He died for them, He expressed His love and forgiveness of them while they were yet enemies (see Rom. 5:8,10). God chose to love them because He is Love, and because of this His people now love Him, men in general and God’s children in particular. True love is always on, always ready, always loving.
Love for God and His forgiveness of us is the foundation of the Christian life. God loves and forgives His people because that is what He wants to do. All decisions on how we treat others must be made on the basis of how God has treated us. In order to love and forgive we must first make the quality decision to love and forgive. Act not on how others have adversely treated you, but always in accord with how God has loved you. To paraphrase a famous quote from the past, ‘Act not on what has been done to you by others, but on what you can do for them’. Forgiveness promotes love, and love always stimulates forgiveness. That which lies behind any problem concerning forgiveness, is a refusal to love. Not loving is the real problem, and it is so ironical due to the fact that the Christian’s life, his very existence is because of love. So to not forgive is to not love is to not live the Christian life is to not love God! Forgiveness should never be anything a Christian needs to be talked into doing, but should be that which is as pre-eminent in his heart as love is. Love and forgiveness should be at the forefront of the Christian’s life on a daily basis. His whole attitude and manner of life should be to love and forgive all others always. The Christian’s very life is to be one of love and understanding, of mercy and compassion, of grace and forgiveness. It is quite interesting to note how many people are quicker to forgive and just get on with their co-workers than they are with their husband or wife. Among the most vital directives in the whole of Scripture is the following: “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. 4:31,32). The predominant one in life is God, the predominant thing in life is love. Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour and evil speaking are the impediments to true forgiveness, and the things that will make unforgiveness quick, simple and easy. At the head of the list of impediments to forgiveness is bitterness. Bitterness has literally destroyed people’s lives. Bitter people die very lonely deaths. “Bitterness is how we punish ourselves for other people’s sins.” Bitterness is not dealing with sin, it is paving the way for it to cause as much damage as it can in your life, and in turn gives rise to your unforgiveness in the lives of others. The worst victims of bitterness are those who zealously harbor bitterness and resentment in their hearts. Bitterness burns a hole in your heart that grows ever larger the longer it is left unfilled with love. Bitterness comes from anger that has not been Biblically dealt with and leads to misery, and is a not too distant relative of murder. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn. 3:14,15). Bitterness encourages hatred, it fans the flames of hatred with the bellows of revenge. Bitterness paves the way for hatred, and hatred is murder in the heart.
“‘Bitterness’ comes from the Greek word ‘pikria’, literally or figuratively. Bitterness means acerbity, anger, harshness, discontentment and irascibility. Bitterness results from unresolved or unrequited frustration over anger or envy. The key word is ‘frustration’. Bitterness not only destroys your testimony, it defiles others.” Unforgiveness is bitterness revealed in all its repulsive nakedness. “‘Defile’ is from the Greek ‘miaino’; meaning to sully or taint, i.e. to contaminate (ceremonially or morally): i.e. it makes one unable to properly worship, fellowship with and serve the LORD. Bitterness starts as a root. It starts as a little tiny root; therefore, it is very hard to detect. The root of bitterness is not large or on the surface where it can be easily detected; rather it is like a cancer. Bitterness does its insidious work deep down in the marrow of your soul. Only after it has metastasized do symptoms surface in bitter words, bitter thoughts and bitter deeds. Bitterness is rampant in our families, society and churches. Children are bitter toward parents. Parents are bitter toward children. The divorced are bitter toward their former spouses. Children of divorce are bitter toward their parents for divorcing. Siblings are bitter over rivalries for parental affection and inheritances. Many loving families have been destroyed by the bitterness that came from the reading of a will. There is bitterness in the workplace. Co-workers resent each other and their supervisors. There is class envy between employees and business owners. Worst of all, some are bitter toward God, His Word and His Church. But eventually bitterness will come out. Every cancer manifests itself.” Bitterness can also manifest itself by a conspicuous silence. Silence, ostracization and separation are perhaps the worst, and most hurtful and hate-filled examples of bitterness. Ostracization is nothing but murder without blood. Ignoring someone is childishly trying to create a reality in which they do not exist. To intentionally disregard a person’s very existence is the height of immaturity, and that which plummets the depths of pure evil. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb. 12:14,15 cf. Deut. 29:18; Rom. 14:19).
There are far more people who are guilty of murdering others in their hearts, and minds, than those who have actually gone on to physically commit that most heinous of crimes, and it all starts with a root of bitterness. The longer bitterness is given free rein in our lives the harder we become, and the more damage it does. Subsequently, the more we procrastinate in acting against bitterness by choosing to love and forgive—by actually living the Christian life instead of just agreeing with its principles—the more insensitive we become to our responsibility toward God to love and forgive our brethren. Unforgiveness is insensitive to the needs of others, and insensitivity to the needs of others runs contrary to the whole Christian love ethic. Contrary to popular belief, diamonds are not the hardest substance on earth, but the calloused heart. The snowball effect of bitterness is unavoidable, turns hearts into frozen rocks and always leads to other sins. Sin always begets sin, and it will take you places you never even imagined you would be comfortable in. Sin never stops, just like rust never sleeps. Bitterness defiles everyone and everything it touches. Bitterness is a cancer that eats away at our logic and any semblance of kindness, and tender heartedness and it will not go away until we face it, rebel against it and replace it with genuine love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is always the result of rebellion against bitterness. When bitterness and resentment come calling, STAND YOUR GROUND and love and forgive. Bitterness will only leave, and it will only stay away by your sincere and committed dedication to love and forgive as God loves and has forgiven us. Bitterness cannot exist in a heart where love and forgiveness excel. Bitterness can only be expelled by love and forgiveness. Bitterness leads to wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice. To be bitter is to walk in the way of Satan. It is to be a hateful, evil person. To be bitter is to insist that someone pay for the hurt you have suffered. If there is unforgiveness in your heart, if you have not forgiven anyone the way God has forgiven you, it evidences the fact that there is a root of bitterness in you, and it needs to be surgically removed with the double-edged scalpel of love and forgiveness. The Christian is to ensure that all bitterness is far from him. We must see to it that we always have an attitude of gracious forgiveness showing merciful love to one and all. Pain caused by the sins of others will not endure, it cannot endure in the heart of one who loves and is loved by God, and forgives as He does. People seldom permit anything to interfere with their lifestyle, to keep them from doing the things they want to do. This is the same attitude all Christians should adopt toward anything that would seek to obstruct us from freely loving and forgiving all others. The way to prevent unforgiveness gaining a foothold in your heart is by loving God with all your being, and your neighbor as yourself. Only love and forgiveness can mercilessly evict all bitterness from one’s heart. The only thing a Christian should hate is any active unforgiveness in his heart toward any. Why not forgive? Why not love? Why not treat others as God has so lovingly and graciously treated you! Has anyone sinned more against you than you have sinned against God? No? Then wake up dear Christian person and forgive everyone as God has forgiven you! Refuse to allow anything to stop you from truly forgiving from the heart. Don’t sleep through your Christian life. Be awake, be active, love and forgive!
The best way to judge whether you are serious in not allowing bitterness a place in your heart, is to carefully observe your thoughts, words, and attitude when in the confines of your privacy. Most are expert at showing a loving and forgiving heart when in public, but how they act, think and speak in private is, sadly, sometimes quite another story. The true character of a person is not revealed in times of adversity, but in the privacy of their own minds. You know who you really are, and what you really want. You know whether or not you are really serious about your Christianity based on God’s terms, and not your own terms. Public displays of love and forgiveness are completely negated by any private thoughts of resentment. When you see a person, or are reminded of a person who has hurt you in the past, do not allow bitter thoughts any space in your mind, but reject such thinking by praying for the person, and loving them the way God loves you. Love “…thinketh no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5). Christians are only playing games with themselves and with God if they think that a less than 100% forgiveness is the forgiveness that God is pleased with, and wants, in their lives. Admittedly, forgiving someone who is unrepentant and continually sins against you by spreading lies and gossiping about you, etc., is not an easy thing to do, but again, it is not an impossible thing to do. Do not think about it. Do not meditate on the sins others have, are, or might be committing against you, but be the person God has commanded you to be. Love and forgive, bless and do not curse. Be merciful, gracious and lovely and refuse to allow other’s sins to lead you to sin. Anything less than love and forgiveness is sin. Love can never be defeated. Believe it or not, how others act toward you is not what is important, it is how you respond that matters. You will not be judged by what others have done to you, but by how you responded, how you chose to live your life. What others do or say to you is their concern not yours. Your concern, dear Christian, should always be what you do or say to others. Your concern is what is happening in your mind and in your heart when it comes to others who have sinned against you. Are you loving them? Have you forgiven them? This is what you should be concerned about, and not how someone has unfairly acted toward you. Set a guard over your thoughts, words and actions. “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psa. 141:3). Be vigilant in your Christian walk, and be ruthless against the temptation to be angry and hateful toward any. Be concerned with your own sins and sinfulness rather than with those who have sinned against you (see Matt. 7:5). Fill your heart with the joy of knowing that your sins have been forgiven by God, and then go and do likewise to your brethren. Judge your sins, your sinfulness rather than being preoccupied by judging and condemning others. Judge yourself, praise God for His forgiveness of you, and then go and forgive all who have sinned against you. No matter what was done to you or said against you and even if it continues to this very day, there is nothing on God’s green earth that can legitimately excuse us, or prevent us, from fully forgiving our fellow man except what we allow.
NO SIN COMMITTED AGAINST YOU CAN JUSTIFY YOUR UNFORGIVENESS TOWARD THE PERSON WHO COMMITTED IT. No sin used to strike at you can legitimize your sinfully striking back. The Christian is to turn the other cheek, not deliver a blow of their own. DON'T HATE BECAUSE OF SIN, LOVE BECAUSE OF GOD. If the unforgiven should forgive those who refuse to forgive them, then surely the forgiver should also forgive the unrepentant. But when a person insistently continues on in unforgiveness toward someone who has repented, and never repeated anything they ever said or have done to them in the past, the Christian is treading on very dangerous ground. To not forgive a repentant brother or sister in the Lord the way God has forgiven you is about as serious as it can get. To turn your back on a fellow believer, particularly if they are also a family member, to neglect them and ultimately reject them by casting them out of your life, is nothing but the manifestation of evil in all its full-blown ugliness. If it is not love it is not forgiveness. The relationship between Christians should be treated with the utmost respect and honor. After all, we will be spending all of eternity with one another so why not love and forgive fully now and not wait until then. A poem many would be familiar with goes: “To dwell above with saints we love, Oh, that will be glory. But to dwell below with saints we know, well, that’s another story”. Oh how perfect we all consider ourselves to be and how imperfect everyone else is. How we mock the imperfections and sins of others while ignoring, or making excuses for, our own. How we often seek for justice against those who sin against us, and yet plead for mercy from God when we sin. No one is as perfect as you might think you are, AND NEITHER ARE YOU! “Unforgiveness is a sin that is often committed against those who should be the closest and dearest to us. You've heard the saying ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ and ‘Why do we always hurt the ones we love’. Unforgiveness is all too often a family sin. It is a sin committed by husbands against their wives, wives against their husbands; children against parents and parents against their children. Brothers and sisters that will not forgive one another.” Sometimes, “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend". The truth is every Christian has been forgiven, therefore every Christian needs to forgive, should forgive and wants to forgive. If we are forgiven by God, you can be sure that we will all need to forgive one another. Forgiveness means the past is dead. Let us look at the present and into the future. Some Christians, even after many years, still look at others the way they were, because they refuse to see them as they are now. They refuse to see them as they are now because that would mean they would have no reason not to forgive them and be fully reconciled with them. Some Christians simply do not want to have to forgive. God’s love and forgiveness of you has saved you. Your love and forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of you will all combine to heal you of past hurts. A Christian filled with love and forgiveness will not easily fall into the sin of unforgiveness.
Christian marriage is a most holy institution. To disrespect it by not forgiving your husband or wife is to disrespect God’s love and forgiveness toward you both. To split from a husband or wife simply because you do not ‘feel like you used to’ toward them, and can see a ‘better’ life for yourself without them, is sin in its profoundest state of ugliness. To harbor resentment, anger and bitterness in your heart for your loved one is to renounce your marital oath, and puts asunder what God has joined together (see Mk. 10:9). It is to invite destruction into your life. Genuine love and forgiveness will overcome all obstacles, but if you choose to be bitter and angry at your spouse by not forgiving them the way God has forgiven you, you invariably isolate yourself from your husband or wife, and become, of all people, a most sad and miserable example of what a real Christian should be and stands for. Moreover, your relationship with God will be effected, sometimes in a very subtle way, but nonetheless it will be effected, and your prayers will be hindered (see 1 Pet. 3:7-9). Love and forgiveness breeds understanding, compassion and mercy, which, in turn, release more love and forgiveness into your life. To love and forgive your husband or wife will be an enormous testimony to your family and all who know you, of Christ’s love and forgiveness of you. For the Christian, to love and forgive is the only way to live. There are no other options, there is no alternative lifestyle for the Christian but to walk in love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness is the life we have been called to. There is no such thing as a second-class Christianity wherein forgiveness does not really matter. To express your anger and hurt by silence, by never talking about the issue, will only exacerbate the situation. Unforgiveness is often a symptom of something even worse. Unforgiveness is only the tip of the iceberg that has been created by hatred and resentment and a complete and predetermined, unwillingness to change. Harboring feelings of bitterness and pain will only make a long-term period of unforgiveness all that much easier and justifiable in your mind. No true Christian will ever seek to live any other way but in love and forgiveness toward his neighbour. True forgiveness is to forgive as God has forgiven us. Anything less than this is not forgiveness at all, but a convenient way to get on with our lives and live as we please rather than how God has commanded. Again, it is vitally important for the one who is not forgiven to always maintain forgiveness in their hearts toward any and all whom they know have not forgiven them. Prayer is that which stokes the fire of love and forgiveness in our hearts. The unforgiven must always forgive the unforgiver. There is never any biblically justifiable excuse not to forgive. Being on the receiving end of unforgiveness is no reason to be unforgiving toward others. No Christian has any right to be angry with the one who refuses to forgive them, but we do have an edict from God to forgive and love everyone, no matter the circumstance or situation, as we have been forgiven and are loved by God.
For the Christian no one can ever be exempt from being forgiven. Those forgiven by God are obliged to forgive their fellow man, and in particular their fellow Christian. Who are you, dear Christian, to withhold forgiveness from one whom God loves and has forgiven and for whom Christ’s blood was poured out on the cross? What is it which has deceived you into thinking you are justified in your unforgiveness toward another, that it really does not matter and has even gone unnoticed by God? Forgiveness does not need justification—though for the Christian it is always justifiable based on God’s forgiveness of them—for it runs on the grace of God and is motivated by the mercy and love of God. When it comes to forgiveness, there are those who do, and there are those who do not; there are those who will to forgive, and there are those who WILL NOT! Intention to forgive, wanting to forgive, but not actually forgiving is not forgiveness. “…be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas. 1:22 cf. Lk. 8:21; 11:28); Jesus said: “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in Heaven” (Matt. 7:21); and, “For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:50). Forgiveness must be a daily reality in the life of the believer. Those who do not forgive will not forgive. Those who will not forgive have some inner manic drive which pushes them to obsessively hold on to what they cannot change. Some people feel like fools if they do not, in some way, retaliate against those who have wronged them. They perversely equate this with being strong. Other people’s sins against you can never justify your sinning against them by not forgiving them their sin as God has forgiven you. Unforgiveness is always the greater sin. As hard as we try, life and people sometimes have a way of bringing out the worst in us, such is our sinful state. But what the Christian needs to focus on is not the sin committed against him, but the grace of God that has forgiven him his multitude of sins, and the love of Christ Who willingly sacrificed His life for him. THAT, my friends, will bring out the best in you and lead you to love and forgive as you are loved and forgiven. It all depends on what kind of person you want to be. When it comes to unforgiveness within marriage, especially when there is a separation involved, it is a very delicate situation where even one word can exacerbate things. Forgiveness toward the unforgiver must, in these situations, manifest itself in a gentle and patient waiting in the background while God deals with the one who refuses to forgive. In some cases all one can do is to forgive and live patiently and prayerfully in the hope the person who has refused to forgive you will one day be blessed of God to repent of their unforgiveness and fully forgive you and reunite with you. Actively loving will maintain forgiveness in your heart, and as Christians we must ensure that forgiveness is nurtured and maintained by the love of God that is in all of us. “Let all your things be done with charity” (1 Cor. 16:14).
Many who have spent years in unforgiveness have actually forgotten the whole situation and the person they have not forgiven, but this does not exonerate them from their responsibility to forgive. Unforgiveness must be dealt with no matter how long a separation has been in place. The time for forgiveness never runs out. Turning a blind eye to the responsibility every Christian has to forgive will never cause it to go away. If you know what you should do but do not do it, it is sin. “…to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). Attempting to ignore your duty, to escape your responsibility to forgive is nothing short of sheer rebellion against God. There is no statute of limitations that will inevitably exempt you from forgiving anyone who has sinned against you, no matter how much time has elapsed. The obligation to forgive stands unfaded by time. In fact, the more time that passes the more the urgency to forgive increases. The Christian is obliged to forgive. The Christian is compelled to forgive by the very fact he is forgiven. Any Christian who does not at least feel the compulsion to forgive is in serious trouble. If you have not Biblically forgiven someone you will remain under an obligation to forgive them as long as you live. Simply because you have forgotten the matter, and the person in question has been cold-bloodedly excised from your life thanks to your unloving attitude toward them, does not in any way entitle you to walk away and live the remainder of your life as if they had never existed. No sin committed against you gives you the right to condemn the sinner instead of forgiving him. Moreover, no forgiven sinner has any right to condemn another sinner who has been forgiven by God. Unforgiveness of the person you think nothing of is affecting your relationship with God right now. If your attitude to this indisputable fact is one of indifference, then I question your claim to being a Christian. “An indifferent person simply doesn't care or isn't concerned, not because they can't, but because they won't.” No matter how much ‘silence’ there might be from God and the person you refuse to forgive, your unforgiveness dear Christian must be dealt with, and the relationship in question restored if you are serious about your Christian walk. Do not think that all God wants you to do is go up to your spouse and say, ‘I forgive you’, and then go on in your life without them. Forgiveness is not being nice and then walking away, forgiveness is loving and staying. Love and forgiveness never do things by halves. Love and forgiveness never pack their bags and leave, for they are always in it for the long haul. Only the unwise see merit in bitterness. Only the unwise add actions to an unforgiving attitude. The forgiveness God wants you to walk in is not hypocritical, and never without corresponding action, for it is the same forgiveness God has toward you. God never leaves nor forsakes His people, and Biblical forgiveness never leaves or forsakes the one it has forgiven. “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). The commitment to marriage is bound by love’s oath: I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Name me one person in Scripture whom God forgave and yet abandoned. Anyone who is even remotely conversant with the Scriptures knows that there is no such thing as true forgiveness that is not cradled in love. True forgiveness loves the person it forgives and wants to be in that person’s life to make it the best life they can for them. Forgiveness is not merely wishing a blessing on a person’s life, or impersonally praying for a blessing on a person’s life, it is BEING a blessing in a person’s life! THIS IS CHRISTIANITY! Christianity is walking in love and forgiveness toward others just as God loves and has forgiven you. Loving the Gospel is not just about loving God’s immutable, unassailable and infallible truth, but loving the God of truth and there is no better way to do this than by love and forgiveness toward one and all.