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Life Lesson 9:Forgiveness frees me from the toxicity of hate, resentment and bitterness that can corrupt my soul and drive a wedge between me and my relationship with the Lord. Therefore, the act of forgiveness brings healing to my body and refreshment to my soul.

 “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

-Colossians 3:13 NLT

The dictionary defines forgiveness as “the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.” Action therefore implies that it takes a conscious and deliberate effort on our part to let go of the offense, wrongdoing or hurt.

Someone once said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Let that sink in for a moment. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things for any human being to do. It’s just not in our nature to easily forgive those who have hurt or offended us. As people, we have a tendency to hold on to a grudge. Harboring unforgiveness can cause us to become spiteful and vengeful. An unforgiving spirit is a dangerous sin (Matt 18:34,35; Luke 15:28-30), and holding on to it can turn into a mushroom cloud of bitterness for a lifetime.

So why do we hold on to unforgiveness? The answer may be different for everyone because the pain of the offense may run deeper for some. Only you can identify the depths of the pain inflicted on you by another person. But holding on to unforgiveness is not hurting that person, it’s actually hurting you. I’m not saying that you should deny or ignore the hurt you’re feeling, but holding on to it doesn’t diminish the pain, nor does it mean that the person deserves forgiveness. In Luke 17:4, Jesus taught that forgiveness is a duty, and that no limit should be set on the extent of forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-22).

For years, I lived with unforgiveness in my heart against those who hurt me or whom I thought might have done me wrong. Like a broken record in my head, I would play the offense over, and over trying to figure out how to get back at that person and how to make them look bad. I was filled with resentment and bitterness. It took some time for me to finally give my unforgiveness to Christ. It happened one day as I was reading the Bible, I came across this Scripture: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25 NIV). I was sure I heard that Scripture before, but on this day, God got a hold of me and it suddenly resonated with me, bringing me to a place of repentance. The truth is, I sometimes still struggle with unforgiveness, but God is so incredibly gracious to remind me of His forgiveness and the benefits of forgiving my brothers and sisters. In Matthew 6:14 we’re told “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Perhaps you are wondering why your prayers are not being answered, take an internal look at your heart to see if you may be holding on to resentment or unforgiveness. If so, repent of it quickly so that you can find peace in your relationship with God.

One of the amazing things that Jesus did for us is to forgive us of our sins by dying on the cross for you and for me. If the Lord Almighty forgave you and me, how much more should we forgive each other? Listen to what Paul the apostle taught in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Forgiveness bridges the gap between God and man. In 1 John 1:9, we are told that “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Because of what Jesus did on the cross for us and because of the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells us, we have the ability to forgive at any moment we choose. What’s wonderful about being a follower of Christ is that we can bring our sins to Him. Take a moment to read Psalm 103 and get a hold of the great benefits of surrendering your life to God. Not only does He forgive our sins, but Scripture tells us that He removes them as far as the east is from the west. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus taught us in part to pray, “…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”

It’s interesting to me that number eight of the twelve step program for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) teaches members to make amends with those they hurt. The lesson then is basically for members to acknowledge their mistakes, take responsibility for them and work to restore broken relationships. Doesn’t that sound like the same  principle that is being applied here when it comes to forgiveness? Just as unforgiveness damages our relationship with people, it similarly fractures our relationship with God. We must repent of the unforgiveness, and take deliberate steps to release it so that we can restore our relationship with the Lord.

The enemy wants us to hold on to spite. The Bible tells us that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Unforgiveness is a destructive behavior that the enemy of our souls uses to damage our relationship with people and ultimately the Lord. Let’s not forget too that it can have a long-term devastating impact on our overall well-being.

I once heard a story about this couple whose daughter was raped and murdered by a man. The convicted killer was sentenced to life in prison without any possibility of parole. It so happened that the girl’s parents were Christians, and incredibly, in the midst of their pain, they forgave the man who took their daughter’s life. In fact, for many years, the couple did the unthinkable. They would visit this criminal in prison every Easter and Christmas to share Christ with him. Over the course of time, the condemned man would soon give his life and heart to Jesus. When asked of the couple how could they possibly forgive this man who brutally murdered their daughter, their response was simply an obvious act of grace. They replied, “It’s not us. It’s the Lord Jesus who worked in us to forgive him.” Although this couple’s story may sound a bit extraordinary, forgiveness is impartial. It doesn’t matter how great or how small the offense, we’re still to forgive. You see, in and of  ourselves, we cannot forgive, unless the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit enables us. We must commit the offense to God and allow Him to heal our hearts and help us to forgive.

Unforgiveness robs you of joy and God’s purpose for your life. Forgiveness doesn’t change the action, it changes you! It doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re exercising strength under grace. Can you honestly say that by holding on to an offense you are happy, at peace, and life is good? If you’re unable to forgive, my heart breaks for you dear friend, and my prayer is that in some way, in your pain, God will reveal clearly His tender mercies and unconditional love for you so that you can live in His divine freedom, and thereby extend forgiveness.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

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