Forgiveness & Learning to Forgive

Forgiveness: Necessary? Yes!

Forgiveness…it’s the key to fixing our problems with each other. By forgiving someone, you’re assuring in your heart that you no longer have a grudge against them. By forgiving someone directly (means to do it in person, rather than just in your heart), you’re clarifying in both of your hearts at the same time that there is no grudge. Keep in mind that the definition to forgive is to literally stop feeling anger toward someone or something.

There are times when we choose to ignore or deny our hurts – which we then hide deep within our souls. Resentment can be a powerful feeling deep within your heart, which at times we can forget about. If not kept on a leash, resentment and anger can fester and cause a lot of issues socially and mentally. Unforgiveness should not have any place in a Christian’s life. Or in anyone’s life, period.

Jesus gave His life so those that believe in Him could be forgiven. As His followers, we need to imitate His example as directed in Ephesians 4:32. If we refuse to forgive someone or just forget about it, Satan gets his foothold in our lives, which can keep us from being the people that GOD desires.

Unforgiveness is a deliberate refusal to give up anger. We think that wrongdoers should not get away with their offenses. We must realize, however, that when we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we surrendered to right to take matters in our own hands. GOD will fight for you! Our responsibility is to forgive and let GOD do the rest.

The Problem with Unforgiveness

  • Our identity in Christ doesn’t support unforgiveness. Since we’re forgiven of all of our sins – past, present, and future – we should not hold grudges against any person.
  • It becomes a strong burden on our shoulders. Resentment is a burden, but when we surrender this burden to the Lord, He gives us rest (Matthew 11:28).
  • It is rebellious against GOD. Unforgiveness is sinful because it becomes a refusal to do what GOD asks us to do (willful disobedience).
  • It plants seeds of bitterness. Refusing to forgive can take root and cause heartache in our lives (Hebrews 12:15).
  • It causes masochistic suffering. Masochism is considered to be a self-imposed hurt upon oneself. Therefore, when you hold grudges, you’re bring suffering upon yourself, because you choose to fester hatred or anger within your heart.
  • It breaks fellowship with the Lord, which is most important not to break. Jesus warned in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Now, note that we don’t lose our salvation, but we aren’t right with GOD until the resentment is diminished.
  • It forms a barrier. Anger festers and builds up walls inside your heart making it a lot harder to love other people and let other people in.

Consequences of Unforgiveness

Peter, one of Jesus’ Disciples, asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sinned against him, and Jesus replied: “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). This means that our willingness to forgive should be unending. We should continue to forgive people as long as we have breath in our body. So, are there consequences? Yes there are. Many examples follow.

  • Bitterness springs up. Resentment, like love, can flow from our hearts. (Hebrews 12:15)
  • When we deal with bitterness, it’s harder to pray, especially for others.
  • It hinders our worship. When we don’t feel enough love toward others, especially when we harbor anger – we can withhold love toward GOD.
  • It’s hard to have a good witness, because we can’t tell others about Christ’s forgiveness if we don’t know how to forgive.
  • Unresolved conflict will become a problem in your life. If we truly want the peace of GOD, then conflicts with others need to become resolved.
  • It inhibits spiritual growth, because we’re tolerating sin. We’re directed not to sin.
  • It hurts other people. A bitter spirit can be passed on to others. Just like love is contagious, anger is as well.
  • Anger can fester so badly as to cause illness to our bodies.

Overcoming unforgiveness

  • Acknowledge it to be a problem and make a serious goal in your heart to resolve all conflict.
  • Write down (if you can remember) every person who’s ever done you wrong, that you need to forgive. Make it a plan to forgive them in your heart, and if possible, forgive them in person.
  • Take total responsibility for unforgiveness. Look beyond the hurt and focus on the forgiveness GOD gave you to spread on to others.
  • Confess all anger, bitterness, and resentment before GOD. Ask GOD to forgive you for not forgiving other people. But, make sure to forgive all the other people first, and then repent before GOD.
  • Pray for strength, for those that hurt us, and for those that hurt other people.
  • Help other people. Reaching out a helping hand can make a difference in people’s lives.

Love is the evidence

What are the other evidences that we have overcome unforgiveness?

  • We won’t see offensive people the way we did before.
  • Those harsh feelings will be replaced with a new attitude, an attitude of love.
  • We won’t try to avoid people.
  • We will accept wrongdoers as they are, instead of trying to pursue and hate them.
  • We learn to love other people a lot more.

If we continue to ignore the sin of unforgiveness, we will be held in bondage. Jesus wants us to be free, which is one of the reasons that He came to free us (John 8:36). Because He forgave us and continues to forgive us, criminals of sin, we should forgive others, the wrongdoers. Lastly, ask the Lord to help you and bless you with the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Scriptural references

Ephesians 4:26-32
Matthew 6:13-15
Matthew 7:7
Matthew 11:28
Matthew 18:21-22
John 8:36
Philippians 4:13
Hebrews 12:1
Hebrews 12:14-15
1 John 1:9

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