“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
Is there someone in your life, if they sat by you at church, would make your skin crawl? You probably would not be able to focus on the worship service because you would be thinking about this person and how they’ve wronged you in the past, and maybe still do wrong to you. You would not be able to extend them genuine kindness and compassion with the true heart of Christ. That is, you would not really be happy that they chose you to sit by you. Why couldn’t they have picked a different spot? Did anyone come to mind? For me, it did. I have much work still to do…
Unforgiveness – The refusal to set someone free from their obligation to pay you back for harm done to you.
- “And forgive us our trespasses, as we also have forgiven our trespasses.” Matthew 6:12 (Part of the Lord’s prayer)
When we don’t forgive as Christ has directed us, we act out in all sorts of sinful ways, displaying damaging emotions, as verse :31 states:
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:31
- Bitterness – The overall characteristic of a heartened heart. To pick. To cut. It’s the irritable state of mind which displays harsh opinions of others. It’s a sour, crabby demeanor, resentful and unwilling to reconcile. It’s bitterness that is the opposite of love, which keeps no track of wrongs. Bitterness tallies and scores all wrongs, never to forget.
- Rage/Wrath – Stoking the fire of anger. It’s the deep vengeful heart that desires payback or else.
- Anger – The temporary outbursts of rage, erupting when emotions get heated.
- Brawling – Arguing. Relational strive. The opposite of striving for peace.
- Slander – Evil speaking words against the person with intentions of injuring the person in order to receive some sort of payback.
- Malice – Evil minded and having a bad heart towards that person. Having the mindset that you have a right to feel the way you do.
Who wants to be weighted down with all of these heavy-feelings? It seems too much to bare to carry this load.
What happens to us when we do not forgive? There is a price to pay, not by the one who wronged us, but by ourselves. Yes, we pay a steep price if we do not forgive.
- “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
The price of unforgiveness:
- A loss of our intimacy with God. Unforgiveness creates a barrier to our heart and to God.
- Fall outs in other relationships. We tend to set other relationships a side and keep people at bay because we don’t want to get hurt again. We become guarded.
- Stunted spiritual growth. Because of the unforgiveness, we do not have the capability to have true joy, peace, love, and happiness which comes from the Father.
- Damaged emotions. We can’t fully love and relate in a way that is healthy anymore.
How do we solve the hideousness of unforgiveness?
Make a decision of the mind… Forgive, as we are commanded to forgive. How do you make a decision? Get on your knees and pray to forgive the person (or list of persons). You cannot do it on your own.
PRAY. Ask God whom you need to forgive. Then, state the name of the person(s), state the name of the pain, and state the plan to forgive, i.e., that you won’t bring it up again.
What happens if you return to your pain?
Retract. Start again in prayer. Pain takes a long time to heal, but it is an intentional effort on your part, ongoing and often, until there comes such a time that your feelings follow your choice to forgive.
You’ve heard it said, “You can’t forgive because you can’t forget,” but actually it is “You won’t forget until you fully forgive.”
How will you know when you’ve truly forgiven?
- Kindness – You will be able to have the freedom to show kindness to the person, to give your best without resentment and without expecting anything in return.
- Tender-heartedness – You will have compassion for the person who hurt you and possibly even sad for that person if they are still living in a state of denial or unrepentance.
- Christ is your model – You’ve given forgiveness away as quickly and easily as He did for you… Of course, we won’t be able to do this perfectly as we are sinful, but this is our goal.
There are no enduring relationships without forgiveness. Knowing people for years, and accepting them for who they are and what they have done to hurt you is the key to a joyful life. You will need to forgive several major and many, many minor offenses.
Here’s an interesting story… Davinci was painting “The Last Supper.” While he was painting it, he was harboring a huge grudge against a friend who had hurt him. He painted Judas’ face to be the exact portrait of his friend. When he finished the painting, Jesus’ face was lacking something. It didn’t look quite right, so he forgave his friend, erased Judas’ face, painted another random face, and repainted Jesus’ face. “The Last Supper” is one of the most popular pieces, recognized by most everyone, and the key to this recognition is seeing the beautiful face of Jesus.
The beauty of Christ will not be displayed in your life unless you are able to forgive.
Father, please bring to mind all of those who we need to forgive. Help us to name them, name their offenses, and help us to leave them at your feet with fully forgiving hearts and the ability to show love and kindness to them. We are so very thankful for all that you have freely forgiven us for. Help us to better forgive as you have forgiven us. In Jesus Name. Amen.