Does unforgiveness affect us as believers? I think many of us would agree that it does. So then why is it hard to forgive some people? As someone who has harbored unforgiveness towards others more times than I care to admit, I know this is still an area of growth for me.
Sometimes I find it more comforting to hold on to the offense than to walk away from the disappointment, anger, frustration, or bitterness that caused the offense in the first place. I would hold on to the offense and try to justify the ensuing unforgiveness building up in my heart. There were times when people hurt me; therefore I thought I was justified in holding onto the hurt. There were times when people did not meet my expectations and left me disappointed; therefore I thought I was justified. But even if I was hurt, even if I was disappointed, why was holding on to offense and unforgiveness my default reaction as a believer?
The book “Total Forgiveness” by R.T. Kendall really challenged me in this area. As you can tell by the title, it deals with not just forgiveness, but total forgiveness and what that looks like for you and me. I won’t give away too much of what the book is about, but I can say that my heart was deeply convicted after reading it. I knew that I was holding onto unforgiveness towards several people, and that I was not open to letting it go. Regardless of whether the reasons for holding onto the unforgiveness were legitimate or not, I was being confronted with the truth of God’s Word and the commands of Jesus in Matthew 18:21-22,
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
While reading “Total Forgiveness” was good and convicting, there was also something else that really helped me to let go of unforgiveness. Consider this…
Our God is a holy God (Isaiah 6:3) and we know that sin cannot be in His presence (Isaiah 59:2). Yet, God sent His Son to die on the cross so that we, sinners separated from God, can become His children. And He did this while knowing that not everyone would accept the free gift of salvation. If anyone had the “right” to not forgive, it would be God. Yet He gave up that “right” and still sent His Son to bear the price for our sins. What rights then do you or I have to hold onto unforgiveness towards others?
In our life we will face great disappointment, hurt, and rejection. It will be easy to take offense, develop bitterness and hold onto unforgiveness. But let’s be the men of God that live out Matthew 18:21-22 towards those who hurt us and wrong us. With the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can demonstrate “Total Forgiveness” to an unbelieving world, and to our brothers and sisters in the church.
End of article.