LOVE AND FORGIVENESS (PART 9)
Being a Christian means forgiving all those who have hurt you, from enemies to brethren and everyone in between. To forgive is to forgive as God has forgiven you. THAT is the Standard. No excuses are acceptable. There are no loopholes, no justification for not forgiving others as we have been forgiven by God. No one is exempt from forgiveness, nor is any sin beyond the forgiveness of a Christian. We have been forgiven all, so it stands to Biblical reason that we are to forgive all. If you are happy not to forgive, if you find yourself living comfortably with unforgiveness in your heart without the slightest murmur of conscience, you are above all the saddest of people, for you are damaging yourself, soiling your relationship with God and grieving His Holy Spirit. If you have unforgiveness in your heart, but no sense of guilt in your mind, you are of all men most miserable. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves…” (2 Cor. 13:5). “The psalmist wrote, ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me’ (Psa.66:18). ‘Regard means ‘to cling to or hold on to’. If you’re practicing sin as a Christian, it will bring your prayer life to a screeching halt. We all sin, and we sin more than we think we do. But there is a difference between a Christian who sins and a Christian who is willfully and habitually sinning without remorse, without any plans to stop.” If you are a true Christian who takes his Christianity seriously, there is only one way to forgive, and that is the exact same way God has forgiven you: freely, fully and unconditionally. There is no love without forgiveness. There is no forgiveness without a full restoration of a relationship as if no sin had ever occurred. This sounds unrealistic to some, and people, even Christians, immediately react with protest for various reasons, but what they are really protesting about is their perceived right to act adversely against those who have sinned against them. There seems to be nothing that upsets a Christian quite like being reminded of their obligation to forgive. Unforgiveness is to go against what God has commanded. No one’s sin gives you the right to not forgive them. The love of God for you and in you does not give you the right not to forgive, but will compel you to love and forgive one and all.
Did you really expect that becoming a Christian meant you did not have to love certain ones, or forgive certain sins committed against you? Do you really think that loving God with all your being and your neighbour as yourself involves thanking God for forgiveness, but not forgiving your neighbour? The reality of the situation is the Scriptures state clearly and unmistakably that the Christian is to forgive all others as he is forgiven by God. “…forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Looking at the verse this way makes it even more impactful: “…forgiving one another, even as God…hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Anything less than this, anything that falls short of this mark, is not forgiveness. You may call it forgiveness, but you are only deceiving yourself if your forgiveness is not full, free and unconditional. You may not consider your version of forgiveness as unforgiveness, but anything which comes short of restoring a full and proper relationship with the person that sinned against you is unforgiveness. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us…walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:1,2,8). God loves 100% and God forgives 100%. He does not act retributively toward those He loves and has forgiven, and His people must act in the exact same manner. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom. 4:8). The sin you have insistently charged to your brethren is the sin that has been charged to Christ, forgiven and forgotten. Now you see how evil the unforgiveness of a sister or brother in Christ really is. Forgiveness always carries with it a blessing, and this blessing is from God to all His people and flows through His people to all others. NO grudges, NO retribution, NO vendettas, NO revenge, NO hate, NO rejection, NO ill-feeling, NO segregation, NO separation of any kind and NO change to the relationship whatsoever is permissible. True love and forgiveness must take over every thought, word and deed the Christian has and performs with regard to the forgiven person. This means no re-counting of people’s past sins against you to others, and then finishing your diatribe with some cheap throwaway line such as, ‘But I have forgiven them’. Forgiveness means no longer referring back to the sin or sins committed. Forgive them and forget them and go on with your relationship as if nothing untoward had ever occurred. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CHRISTIAN WHO DOES NOT LOVE, AND FORGIVE HIS NEIGHBOUR, LET ALONE HIS FAMILY MEMBER OR BRETHREN. What could ever justify a Christian not forgiving anyone especially one who is repentant, and particularly one whom God has forgiven? How can anyone be legitimately called a footballer, and not actually play the game! A Christian who refuses to forgive is like a footballer who has never played the game, or one who wears the team colors, but who actually plays for the other side. True forgiveness acts on God’s love toward us by loving and forgiving others.
I wonder how many Christians would have the courage to ask the Lord to literally “…forgive us our debts, AS WE FORGIVE our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). Can you honestly make this request of God? Do you really want God to forgive you as you forgive others? Is your forgiveness like God’s forgiveness? Is it full and complete? If it isn’t, then it is not forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is motivated by love. Love brings a purity, a genuineness to forgiveness. Any forgiveness that is not motivated by love, is motivated by ulterior motives, motives that are simply not in accord with godly love. You cannot pray to God asking for the complete forgiveness of your sins to the point He will never condemn you for them, when you refuse to forgive others in the same way you are asking God to forgive you. God forgives His people completely. This means God does not allow their sins to affect His relationship with them, or temper His blessings toward them. God is love, and the life of a Christian is to express that love, to demonstrate that love to others by forgiving everyone from our worst enemies to our very brethren. The only way a Christian’s relationship with God is not ruined by sin, is because of God’s total commitment to love and forgive His people. The only way your relationship with another person will not be ruined by sin, will be because of your total commitment to God’s edict of love and forgiveness. God refuses to allow the sins of His people, for which Christ paid the price, to in any way adversely affect His relationship with them, or His love of, and forgiveness for, them. “…Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom. 4:7,8). This is what a Christian is called to do. The servant who was forgiven all was expected to, in turn, forgive all who were indebted to him. Having no intention to bless others as he had been blessed, “…his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matt. 18:32-35).
There is no Christian life without a love for God that extends to all His people and includes within it a deep-seated desire to lovingly forgive all who sin against us. TRUE FORGIVENESS PAVES THE WAY FOR A RESTORATION OF NORMAL RELATIONS. True forgiveness completely does away with all the excuses as to why you should not be with that person. Love and forgiveness are always the perennial peace makers. Love always thinks the best and seeks the best. “Charity (lovingkindness)…thinketh no evil” (1 Cor. 13:4,5). Forgiveness always seeks for peace even at the cost of our own pride and sense of justice. The meek always seek for peace by forgiveness, while the prideful always seek for merciless justice. To forgive is to have pity, to be courteous and compassionate toward all others no matter what they have done or said against us. In any situation where one person has harmed another, the sin is not the issue. It is always love and forgiveness of the sinner that should be paramount in the believer’s thinking, attitude and subsequent actions. The issue is not what people have done against us, which our pride magnifies and concentrates on, but the forgiveness of those people. When others sin against us the first thing that should automatically come to the mind of the Christian is the forgiveness of God toward himself. When we remind ourselves of God’s forgiveness toward us, we have no recourse but to love and forgive our fellow man as we are loved and forgiven by God. Love always promotes unconditional forgiveness, and never any retaliation in whatever guise. Sin is not here for the Christian to complain about. Anyone who sins against us must be forgiven by us to the point where nothing but the full restoration of the relationship will suffice. Christians who believe they could never return to their spouses, that it just would not be practical to do so, overlook one important detail, the fact they are already married to that person and are compelled to forgive that person and do everything in their power to restore the marriage and love that person unto death. An elderly lady who had been married for over 40 years was asked what has made her marriage so enduring. She answered, “Well, I’m of a generation that when something was broken you fixed it, you did not throw it away”. Today, people discard husbands and wives and dissolve their marriages at the slightest hint of disagreement or unhappiness, rather than working hard to make sure they are doing their utmost to please their spouse and make the marriage last at all costs. Others feel justified in leaving their spouse after enduring years of unhappiness because of a loveless marriage. People are so easily moved by feelings and quickly forget the vows they made before God. Marriage is not about give and take, it is about give and give. When both parties are committed to God and to love, nothing can cause a schism within any marriage. “…a threefold cord in not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:12).
The sins of others is not what the Christian should be concentrating on, but only their own personal level of love and forgiveness. ‘Have I loved that person by forgiving them 100% for their sin, or sins, against me? Is there more that I could do to show them the sincerity and genuineness of my love for them and forgiveness of them? Is the relationship restored 100% because of my forgiveness of that person, or have I allowed myself to be ruled, not by God’s command to love and forgive as He loves and has forgiven me, but by what has been done by them against me? Am I rewarding evil for evil, or have I overcome evil with good? Is God pleased with my level of forgiveness toward others? Is the person I claim to have forgiven, with me or have I separated myself from them?’ The Christian should never render “…evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9). ‘Have I dared to dishonour God’s unconditional forgiveness toward me, by adopting a conditional forgiveness toward others? Am I no different to those of the world, or have I properly loved my fellow man by unrestrictedly forgiving him?’ There can be no true reconciliation without genuine forgiveness which is no less than a restoration of a fractured relationship. Genuine forgiveness wants love to prevail, and true love only ever forgives unconditionally. You cannot operate on this level by focusing your attention upon the sins of others and how hurt you are. The reality is that you have sinned against the Most High God, and He has forgiven you everything. As long as the reality of this is at the forefront of your mind you will desire to and express this same love and forgiveness toward others, the desire to be compassionate and merciful as God has been compassionate and merciful toward you.
What good would forgiveness be if it were not the segue to a restoration of things to how they were prior to sin? This is how God forgives His people, and it is precisely how we are to forgive them too. If your forgiveness of a repentant person has not fully brought you back to a harmonious existence with them, then you simply have not forgiven, and you are certainly not loving them as you should. ANY RESTRICTION ADDED TO FORGIVENESS, AND IT CEASES TO BE FORGIVENESS. The whole point of forgiveness is to inspire peace, promote love and to bring people together again. A loving and forgiving heart refuses to play by sin’s rules. Love always wants to forgive, and forgiveness always and only ever wants to love those who have sinned against us. Remember, who are we, formerly lost, dead-in-sins people who are only saved and enjoy the blessings of the Lord because He has forgiven us based on His grace and mercy, to even momentarily contemplate entertaining any unforgiveness in our hearts toward others. People say, ‘Oh, but you don’t know what they did to me, you have no idea how they have made me feel through years of abuse and how scarred I am because of them’. The healing balm for any sin-caused scars is love and forgiveness. “When you break up with someone, you’re deciding you no longer want to be there to make them happy. That’s the most basic definition of a breakup. Think about it. You’re deciding to leave. Leaving would hurt your partner, but that’s what’s going to happen because at that point, you don’t care enough to stay.” Not caring enough to stay is the essence and outcome of an unloving attitude which can only produce unforgiveness. Separation, divorce, or wiping a person from one’s life will only keep those scars fresh and painful. Be careful, Christian, that you do not use those wounds of life to store your unforgiveness. It doesn’t matter what anyone has done to you! Being sinned against is a part of life on earth, and people who are forgiven by God should not want to do anything else but love and forgive those who have sinned against them. Not a conditional ‘forgiveness’, but a 100% free and full forgiveness. There is no wound that love and forgiveness cannot heal. Anything that falls short of a 100% free and full forgiveness that seeks for nothing less than a full restoration of a friendship, relationship or marriage, is simply no forgiveness at all. If that is the only kind of forgiveness you have, then you are not interested in anyone’s happiness but your own. If a relationship is split or has ended, you have failed in your duty to forgive.
The whole point of forgiveness, particularly between brethren, is to promote love and peace and to give God all the glory. The misery people have put themselves through because they have not forgiven is so unnecessary. Many have dug themselves into such a hole by not having immediately forgiven sin, or by avoiding their responsibility to do so even years after someone had sinned against them, that forgiveness now seems more impossible than ever. But it isn’t. Forgiveness is ready when you are. Be forgiving and love your neighbour as yourself. Sin will take you to places you never planned to go, for sin always has consequences, unforeseen consequences. It is never too late to forgive. Even if several years have elapsed since that person sinned against you, do not ever make the mistake of dismissing the whole matter thinking that it is no longer of any relevance or consequence, but do what you know you must do, dear Christian, and forgive as you are forgiven. “…to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). Some, who have not forgiven even years after the sin was committed, believe it would now be impractical to forgive the person and seek a restoration of the relationship. On the contrary, nothing is more practical than love, forgiveness and the reestablishing of cordial relations—particularly a Christian marriage—no matter how long a person has spent in the bowels of unforgiveness. There is never a time where love and forgiveness should not be acted on. There is never an inappropriate time to love and forgive. There is never a right time to say no to love and forgiveness. Those who continue to avoid their responsibility to forgive, can be assured that their unforgiveness will eventually snowball and involve other sins. It just gets larger and more perilous, “…a vicious circle…” “Without forgiveness life is governed by…an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.”
Every day spent in unforgiveness is another day wasted in bitterness and vengefulness. Love is never wasted, except by the person who refuses to receive it. The sin of unforgiveness is a multi-pronged attack upon yourself and those who have sinned against you. Forgiveness is that which frees us from the pain sin has brought. Ignoring the person who has sinned against us, shutting them out of our lives and out of our minds may bring a temporary form of peace and a morbid sense of satisfaction, but it is simply not the Christian way, for it is an expression of unforgiveness, and not love. You will never forgive as long as you are willing to resent. How can we reconcile our shutting brethren out of our lives who have sinned against us, ignoring them, with the fact all Christians are one in Christ? What should be ignored, what should be shut out of our lives and out of our minds is the sin which has been committed against us. What should be shut out of our lives is anything which would seek to interfere with our forgiveness of others. Shutting people out of our lives is shutting out God and His way of love and forgiveness. Unforgiveness is irreconcilable with the Christian life. Love and forgiveness do not even care what was done to us, or said against us, they only care about restoring peace and love to a relationship which sin has tried to destroy. Unforgiveness is actually joining hands with the sin committed against us, forming a union with darkness that is firmly set against love. Unforgiveness aids sin in order to cause as much damage as possible to a relationship. Unforgiveness can, in reality, only make things worse. It may be years since that person whom you have not forgiven sinned against you, and you may well be under the impression that life has been great since breaking off your relationship with them. The reality of the situation is that the cancer of unforgiveness has been silently growing in you and gnawing away at you and will one day consume you altogether. When you allow sin in your life, you will never be the winner. Sin often brings ‘pleasure’ while it subtly destroys you. After love has done away with sin, all that remains is forgiveness.
Love and forgiveness only care about living for and glorifying the God Who has forgiven all the sins of all His people. Love and forgiveness is the glue which holds together every relationship. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:13). God never leaves His people, nor does He forsake them, because He loves them and forgives them. Go and do likewise with your brethren. You can be assured that where there is a broken relationship there is unforgiveness. A broken relationship shows that sin has had its way, and your unforgiveness has helped to destroy it. Only love and forgiveness can repair a broken relationship. It is never the sin committed against you that destroys a relationship, but only your unforgiveness of it. The responsibility of the sinner is to repent of their sin and ask for forgiveness. The responsibility of the one sinned against is to love the person by forgiving them. Unforgiveness is everyone’s enemy. Unforgiveness always brings with it a change of attitude toward the person who sinned against you. Put simply, the attitude changes from love to hate. It may not seem like hate to you, but you certainly cannot associate love with unforgiveness. The world believes that some sins are unforgiveable, that some sins are so bad that a relationship can never continue, resume or ever be restored. This is because the world knows nothing of the true God’s forgiveness, the kind of forgiveness God has toward His people and has been instilled in them so that they can and will forgive others. Many Christians who allow relationships to be broken and die have convinced themselves that it was the other person’s sin that is responsible. You do not lose a hand because of an infection, BUT BECAUSE YOU FAILED TO PROPERLY TREAT THE INFECTION!! It is no other sin but unforgiveness which ruins relationships. The sin of unforgiveness is the real culprit. The sin of unforgiveness is the real enemy. It is not the unforgiven, repentant person, but the unforgiving person who is the guilty party.
True forgiveness wants only to love and bless those who have sinned against us. True love and forgiveness refuse to allow personalities or personal pride and ego to interfere in the process of loving and forgiving others. True love and forgiveness seek to do away with that which has blocked up a relationship from being as full and free as it was before sins were committed. Imagine yourself loving God with such devoted commitment that you will happily, eagerly forgive others their sins against you. My friends, this is no less than your duty to God as you walk with Him. Forgiving as you are forgiven by God is the daily responsibility of every Christian, and it should be the rule in a Christian’s life not the exception. Anyone who doubts all this as mere pie-in-the-sky thinking, that it is impractical in the real world, and inapplicable in day to day living, knows little to nothing of the power of love and forgiveness when that power is unrestricted by human pride and bitterness. Daily forgiveness IS the real world of the Christian. The unforgiving person is a cynical person who is “…concerned only with their own interests, typically disregarding the only accepted standard of forgiveness which God has established”. Vindictiveness is apparent when forgiveness is absent. Love and forgiveness inspire each other. Love always wants to love and forgiveness always and only ever wants to forgive. Love and forgiveness are far more powerful than any harm done to us by the sins of others. The only Biblical way to deal with the sins of others against us is to love them as God loves His people, and forgive them as we are forgiven by God. The healing power of love and forgiveness should never be underestimated. The fruit of love is forgiveness which is both a blessing to the one forgiven and the one who has forgiven.
Love and forgiveness are such beautiful words that to merely look upon them gives one a feeling of warmth and a sense of freedom. What a blessing it is to know that the God of love has forgiven us, and that there can be nothing which can justifiably stop us from forgiving others. Love and forgiveness are just a decision away. Love vanquishes all its enemies, and forgiveness brings peace and freedom. The only person who can prevent your loving and forgiving others God’s way is YOU. The problem in a broken relationship, a separation, a divorce, etc., is not the sin of a friend, brother, husband or wife which you have convinced yourself caused the break up, and made it impossible for any reconciliation to take place, but your sin of unforgiveness which abides rent free in your heart and mind. The sins of others should not be used as stepping stones to take us away from them, but as an opportunity to bring us closer to those who have sinned against us, through loving and forgiving them. Love and forgiveness are extremely powerful forces and show to one and all the seriousness with which you live your Christian life. Rather than allow someone’s sin to be a stumbling block in your life—which you see as a way out of the relationship—use their sins as stepping stones toward a better friendship, a better marriage, a better you, etc., via forgiveness. If you had forgiven the sin in the first place there would not have been any break up. Imagine if you had only talked to that person and forgiven them, how wonderful things would have been, how much love and understanding your relationship would have been blessed with. If you had truly loved the person who had sinned against you, and put their interests ahead of your own, if you had put God’s command to love and forgive ahead of your own selfish agenda, if you had resisted the temptation to act on bitterness and your unforgiving, unloving attitude there would not have been any interruption to your relationship. Simply because you do not have the same feelings you once had for a person, or feel you have lost all love for them is NO reason for you to not forgive them and leave. That is the way of the world! Love always puts other’s interests ahead of your own. If you had sat down with the person lovingly and patiently talking with them your relationship would have blossomed instead of bottoming out. Ignoring reality and responsibility does not fix your problems, it only makes them worse. When love and forgiveness are paramount in your life, the effect of the sins of others will be only a mere hiccup in your relationship instead of being permitted to cause a full-blown cardiac arrest.
Unforgiveness is the personification of selfishness. Love and forgiveness are the personification of selflessness. Forgiveness is an expression, an extension of love. Unforgiveness is an expression of hate. Unforgiveness is simply you not wanting that person in your life anymore based on the assumption that you will never be happy with them again, and on the happiness you perceive you will experience without them. This is not what Christianity, nor what loving God, is all about. Christian love and forgiveness is about restoration not ruination. Christian love and forgiveness is about the daily renewal of a relationship, unforgiveness is nothing but a wrecking ball. Love and forgiveness are about construction not destruction. Love and forgiveness are about evolving as a Christian not devolving back to pre-Christian days where hatred, bitterness and unforgiveness were the norm. Love and forgiveness are about bowing our knees to God, not our flesh. The root cause of a broken relationship lies at the feet of the one who is unwilling to forgive, not the sin and the repentant sinner. The problem is your refusal to forgive the sin, not the sin itself. If you forgave the sin of a repentant sinner what would be the problem? We all have a sense of justice within us, but what gives any sinner the right to act on justice toward another when concerning our own sin we plead for mercy from God? How can any Christian possibly have the gall to refuse to forgive whilst embracing the loving forgiveness of God? How can we embrace and worship the loving and forgiving God, the God of mercy and compassion, and yet refuse to freely dispense love and forgiveness toward others? Moreover, how insipid the situation when a Christian forgiven by God refuses to forgive a fellow Christian their sin toward them which God Himself has forgiven! The only reason why you find it so difficult to forgive is YOU. The struggle you are having is with yourself and your sinful, unloving, anger-filled, or indifferent attitude toward the one who has sinned against you. The lyrics to a song from the past include the following wise statement: “So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key”. Love is the key to forgiveness. The reason for unforgiveness can always be traced back to the one who does not love. It is always and only YOUR sinfulness that is the cause behind, and the sustainer of, unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is the sin of the unforgiver. It cannot legitimately be attributed to the person you are unwilling to forgive. The sins of others are never what ruins relationships, but only the refusal to love and forgive them.
Many want to forgive, but feel silly doing so. “Forgiveness feels like losing. Like the other person got ‘off the hook’. And forgiveness feels like you are exonerating them of their guilt. But that’s not true. Forgiveness is exonerating yourself from the hurt that is holding you back.” You are not indebted to feel hurt every time a person sins against you. A life lived on the principle of love and forgiveness releases you from that pain. Choosing to love the person rather than allowing yourself to hate the person who has sinned against you is the key. Love unifies, it does not cause separation, only hate and everything that is related to it, does. Forgiveness causes separation from sin, not from the one who sinned against you. People feel that what was done, or said, against them warrants at least some retribution, and that they would be foolish not to administer it. The reality is that foolishness belongs to the one who is unforgiving. They adopt the utterly evil, infantile, attitude of the world, ‘God forgives, I don’t’, and think that to forgive is foolish or weak, and that to not forgive and never forget is, somehow, the right way to live! How can any Christian reconcile asking God for mercy, and yet not being merciful to others in the exact same way! How can any Christian reconcile asking God for forgiveness, and yet not being forgiving toward others in the exact same way! Many people live their lives wanting mercy and understanding for themselves, but only justice for others. The crime of the unforgiving Christian is that having gratefully received God’s mercy, he refuses to be merciful to others. Our sin nature dictates that you should ‘pay back evil for evil’, ‘stand up for your rights’, ‘don’t let anyone get away with anything, make them pay for what they did to you’. Such reasoning is anti-Christian and not at all the thinking that a real Christian should be preoccupied with (see Matt. 5:38-48).
Many people, even some who call themselves Christian, are stuck in an eye for an eye world. Retribution is not the way to live the Christian life. Love and forgiveness is the only way. Many believe forgiveness just lets people get away with things. The reality is no sin goes unpunished, but beyond that it is not for the Christian to in any way punish others by repaying evil for evil. The sin you refuse to forgive your fellow Christian for was punished in Christ upon the cross. “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 cf. Psa. 94:1). “Unforgiveness does not yield the right of vengeance to the Lord.” Vengeance belongs to the Lord, and though He has mercy for thousands He will by no means clear the guilty (see Ex. 34:7). God is the only one who has a right to vengeance. The Christian’s only right is to forgive all who sin against him. If there is any vengeance to be exacted, God is the one who will administer it. The Christian’s agenda set out by God is to ALWAYS render a blessing, not evil, in the face of evil. The Christian life is not about “…rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9 cf. Rom. 12:17; 1 Thess. 5:15). The Christian’s agenda is love, not hate. “The radical Jesus agenda is to love your enemies and hate your own sin.” The Christian is called to a life of blessing, not evil. The Christian is to act contrary to the world, and in harmony with God. “That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:2). We are not to hate our enemies, but love our enemies; We are not to curse them that curse us, but bless those that curse us; we are not to do bad to those that hate us, but only good; we are not to despitefully use them who despitefully use us, we are not to persecute those who persecute us, but we are to pray for them, bless them and be a blessing to them not only in words but in actions also. Christians are to pray for those who have sinned against them, we are to desire God’s favor upon them, we are to pray for their forgiveness and engage in forgiveness toward 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). If you truly love the one and only God you will love all your fellow men by forgiving them of all their sin toward you.
Unforgiveness is an overtly evil act, it is an unloving, selfish and inconsiderate act which is always the end result of placing yourself above others. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Phil. 2:3-5). Unforgiveness is not born out of humility and meekness, but arrogance and pride. Unforgiveness places you on the throne that rightfully belongs to the God of love. Unforgiveness is a demonstration of your esteeming yourself better than others. Unforgiveness is always about you, for you are the only one responsible for it, and who seemingly benefits from it. Unforgiveness does not make you selfish, it reveals that you are selfish and self-centered. Unforgiveness is never brought on by the sin of others, but only by your negative response to it. Unforgiveness serves your purposes and no other’s. Unforgiveness makes you a servant of Satan, not God. Unforgiveness makes you the cause of disruption, and not the preventer. Unforgiveness makes you a warmonger not the peace maker. Unforgiveness always seeks to heal one’s own wounds by wounding others, rather than treating the wounds that have affected a relationship with love. Love and forgiveness throw caution to the wind, for love and forgiveness are unconquerable! Love and forgiveness represent freedom, while unforgiveness is synonymous with bondage. No matter how anyone reacts to your loving and forgiving them nothing can defeat your love and forgiveness. Nothing can bring down the love and forgiveness in a Christian but themselves. Unforgiveness can never heal, but only destroy. The Christian must master unforgiveness with love, or unforgiveness will be his master. “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” Unforgiveness is nothing but poison which can do no one any good. Bitterness comes from putting oneself first, by placing yourself above others, seeing yourself as more important than others, and even more important than God, for rather than forgive as God has forgiven you, you choose to sinfully avenge yourself. Unforgiveness is not humbly and meekly loving your neighbor as yourself, moreover, it is not loving as you are loved by God. Unforgiveness is never an accidental sin, it is always willingly, purposely and willfully entered into. Unforgiveness is never accidental, but always intentional and deliberate, while most rarely foresee the negative impact it will have on their own lives. The natural man cannot understand true love and forgiveness, and so counts them as foolishness. To truly love and forgive is to live on another plane of existence, another dimension of reality which the world knows nothing about. Loving in the face of sin is connecting with God. Forgiveness is the fruit of love, and no Christian should have any hesitation towards biting into it with gusto.
There is no legitimate reason that can stop any Christian from intentionally and deliberately participating in the act of forgiveness. Being forgiven by our fellow man is a great blessing, but to be the one forgiving is an even greater blessing. To know God and rightfully worship God is to obey God, and a primary part of obeying God is to love and forgive like God loves and has forgiven you. When you ask yourself ‘Why do I not properly forgive that person’, you will always find yourself focusing your attention on what they did to you rather than on what you MUST do: love unrestrainedly. Praying for others, really praying for the welfare and blessing of others, can often be where forgiveness begins, but it should never be where it ends. If you are sincere in your prayers for those who have sinned against you, you will see to it that you will be a willing participant in loving them by playing an active role in the blessing of them by fully forgiving them, and restoring a right relationship with them. This is how God has blessed all His people, and this is how God wants and expects all His people to bless each other in particular, and all people in general. The Christian should seek to live peaceably with all, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). There is nothing much we can do with those who hate us and seek not to repent for their evil toward us in the past. Their sin is their problem, don’t make it yours. The only way another’s sin becomes a problem in your life is when you refuse to forgive it, and retaliate in like manner. Love and forgiveness form a shield which no sin can penetrate. All we can do is forgive and offer nothing but love in return for any and every sin committed against us. This includes loving and forgiving the person whom we know refuses to forgive us. Be compassionate toward them and pray for them showing them nothing but love and understanding at every opportunity. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). The fact you do not get love in return should never be allowed to dissuade you from loving and forgiving others. Love is only concerned with loving, not being loved.
We are all experts at making excuses for ourselves, attempting to justify what we do and what we do not do. People sometimes pridefully excuse their unforgiveness because of a person’s not having asked for forgiveness, or not admitting their sin, etc. They believe this exempts them from having to forgive. How quick we are to make excuses for our unforgiveness, or calling it by another name. Christians should never look for a way out, a way of not forgiving others. The key to the door of forgiveness is love. Christians should always forgive regardless of repentance or unrepentance shown by the other party. Forgiveness, like love, is not legalistic. Love is a personal decision which refuses to be adversely influenced by anyone, or by anything they do. Love does not set standards, or makes up rules which must be met before it will forgive. Both love and forgiveness are free to be utilized at any moment you choose. Forgiveness is about what you should do, not what the other person has done. Love and forgiveness are what you should do, they do not wait upon the other person to do something first. Someone’s not having asked you to forgive them is no reason not to forgive them. The true Christian refuses to live with unforgiveness in his heart. Imagine wanting to forgive, but not allowing yourself to forgive because the other person has not repented. What kind of life would that be? Our love and forgiveness would be hamstrung by another’s sinfulness instead of freely being deployed to the glory of God. Another’s failure to repent should in no way be allowed to hinder the Christian from forgiving as he has been forgiven. Love always takes the lead. Love never waits for someone to meet a condition before they will be loved. That is simply ridiculous. Love is not looking for restitution it simply wants to forgive. Love always takes the initiative, it is always proactive. Love refuses to allow another’s sin to in any way hinder it from loving. Forgiveness, too, does not require restitution, no payment of any kind because it comes out of love, and there is nothing which love awaits before it can be set in motion. Forgiveness does not require restitution, for it only seeks reconciliation. The sinner sins the Christian loves.
The whole point of forgiveness is to refuse to allow anything, or anyone, to hinder us from loving them. On the other hand what kind of Christian are you who refuses to forgive one who has apologized, repented and asked you for forgiveness? Some actually believe that a Christian is under no obligation to forgive, if the offender has not repented and asked to be forgiven. If someone does not consider what you said, or did, to them, sinful, you would still apologize. So why would a Christian not forgive a person unless they repented? It makes no sense. I dare say that to love your neighbor as yourself by definition would include all your neighbors, which would also involve forgiving everyone their sins against you regardless of their prior or subsequent actions or attitude. How else could love be manifested in such a situation? Does “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44), suggest waiting for them to repent before you demonstrate your love by forgiving them? Of course not. Love is so unstoppable, so indomitable and utterly undeterrable, that it even loves its enemies. Unforgiveness can in no way be a manifestation of love. Quite often the hardened heart of the sinner can be softened by the attitude of love and forgiveness displayed by the one who has been sinned against, and repentance may well follow. The true Christian does not look for excuses, or reasons which can be used to exempt one from the obligation to forgive, for the true Christian actually WANTS TO FORGIVE so much that he DOES FORGIVE. The true Christian offers no opposition, no resistance to forgiveness. The love of God in him, and the forgiveness of God toward him, are the motivating factors that actually drive the Christian to seek to do nothing but love and forgive when wounded by the sins of others. Love and forgiveness is the very essence of turning the other cheek.
The Christian undauntedly strives to overcome every hurdle placed before him in order to forgive as he has been forgiven. He does not succumb to evil but overcomes evil with good. “…if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20,21). If someone sins against you LOVE THEM by FORGIVING THEM!! The only way to overcome the evil of being sinned against is with the good of forgiveness. “…be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:8,9) “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men” (1 Thess. 5:15). “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you…Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13 cf. Lk. 6:37). Unforgiveness is a great evil, especially when welcomed into hearts belonging to those who have been forgiven by God. What a sad person it is who gladly welcomes God’s forgiveness, but who refuses to forgive others, even brothers and sisters in Christ, in the same way. Love and forgiveness are not to be conditioned on repentance. Nothing can stop love and forgiveness, and they wait upon no prerequisite. The true Christian wants only to love and forgive, and the true Christian allows nothing to hinder their love, or desire, to forgive anyone.
“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Lk. 17:3,4). “…as the multiplication of offences is a great aggravation of offences, so the multiplying of forgiveness is a great demonstration of a God-like temper in us: he that multiplies sin, does, like Satan, sin abundantly; and he that multiplies pardon, does, like God, pardon abundantly. Jesus often taught on the subject of forgiveness. Just about the longest parable in the New Testament regards this very thing (see Matt. 18:20-35); and there is no need to make Luke's account here a ‘variable’ of other teachings of Jesus in similar words and different circumstances. In fact, there is a little different thing in view here, namely, a warning against withholding forgiveness (when it has been asked for). It is foreign to the intent of Jesus to ask, ‘But what if he does not repent?’...The follower of Jesus is not justified in holding a spirit of unforgiveness just because no apology is offered. That would put the responsibility for the Christian's attitude upon the offender; and that Jesus would never do…As a matter of fact, if one is going to forgive only those sinners against himself who repent and request it, he will not forgive anyone ten times in a lifetime! Besides that, what about those cases in which men sin against others WITHOUT EVER BEING AWARE that they have done so? And in religious matters, many sins are committed unintentionally (see Jn. 16:2).” “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, you heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14). “This is a reiteration of the divine prerequisite for forgiveness, namely, a forgiving heart. This is an absolute condition. True, Luke quoted our Lord as saying, ‘If he repent, forgive him’ (Lk. 17:3); but this applies specifically in those cases where a brother is tempted to withhold forgiveness even from one who has repented and must not be construed as an amelioration of the condition laid down here…It is the Christian's duty to forgive all men without regard to their repentance. If he should think to forgive only those who repent and ask it, his forgiveness duties would be practically eliminated altogether!”