We’re all guilty of offending other people, and we’ve all been offended by other people; that’s the facts of living in a sinful world. But as Christians we’re told to be forgiving people. It’s impossible to live a victorious Christian life with unforgiveness in our life. It isn’t the offense that destroys relationships, it’s the inability to forgive that destroys relationships. Unforgiveness is poison to the soul. Unforgiveness is a sin that locks the unforgiving person in their own self-made prison. It’s as bad as being enslaved to mind-altering drugs or alcoholism. Unforgiveness is a sin that will destroy its own container. Unforgiveness is a sin that will destroy you like an incurable cancer. Unforgiveness is a sin that causes bitterness in our life.
The Bible warns about bitterness: “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). The word “bitterness” comes from the Greek word “pikria.” It’s used in Acts 8:23 of a condition of extreme wickedness, “gall of bitterness” or “bitter gall.” Romans 3:14 says it’s a mouth full of cursing and bitterness. Ephesians 4:31 says its “bitter” hatred; and in Hebrews 12:15 it’s a root of “bitterness,” producing “bitter” fruit. In Deuteronomy 32:33 and Job 20:16, it represents the deadly “poison” or “venom” of poisonous snakes.
Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26). This isn’t about our eternal salvation, that’s secure when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This is about our being blessed or disciplined by God (Hebrews 12:7-11). God will not hear our prayers when we have unforgiveness in our life (Isaiah 59:1-2). People often say: “I don’t get mad; I get even.” People mistakenly believe that their bitterness and refusal to forgive will make the other person suffer. But it’s the unforgiving person that suffers!
The Bible says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19). “Unforgiveness” doesn’t yield the right of vengeance to the Lord; the bitter person wants to become their own god and becomes his/her own worst enemy—destroying their self. Unforgiveness and bitterness are often hidden sins. No one may notice your bitterness and unforgiveness at first, but the poison is doing its hidden work inside your heart.
Unforgiveness is usually a result of ungodly pride and self-righteousness. Unforgiveness is often the sin that’s committed against those we’re the closest to and dearest to us. There’s the sayings “Familiarity breeds contempt” & “Why do we always hurt the ones we love.” Unforgiveness is often a family sin. Husbands won’t forgive their wives; wives won’t forgive their husbands; children won’t forgive their parents and parents won’t forgive their children. Peter tells us, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). If this is true for husbands and wives, then it’s true for everyone, married or not. It’s hard to pray for someone when we hold a grudge toward them.
Unforgiveness among fellow believers is common; Christians who will not talk to each other, cannot even look at each other, and wouldn’t dare sit on the same side of the auditorium. Pastors who will not forgive church members, and believers who will not forgive their pastor. It’s easy to see why there’s so many prayerless and powerless churches! The Bible says, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you…Forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection”(Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:13-14).
The forgiveness of people for their sins toward us will never make a wrong right. The hurt, pain, and memory is still there, but even if someone doesn’t apologize, we must release them so we won’t bring our self into the bondage of unforgiveness. Being bound in the prison of unforgiveness is a sad way to live our life. Even if the abuser repents, sometime the abused still holds on to the hurt that’s been done to them, which is only putting themselves in the prison of unforgiveness. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can give us the grace to truly forgive.
Someone has said, “Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. Forgiveness is costly; we pay the price of the evil we forgive. Yet you’re going to live with those consequences whether you want to or not; your only choice is whether you will live in the bitterness of unforgiveness or the freedom of forgiveness. That’s how Jesus forgave you—He took the consequences of your sin upon Himself. All true forgiveness is substitutional; because no one really forgives without bearing the penalty of the other person’s sin.” Forgiveness is extending mercy to those who have harmed us.
It’s the spiritually strong and spiritually brave person who knows how to forgive. We’re to make a constant effort to forgive so that we can build a forgiving mindset in our brain. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-23). Living a lifestyle of forgiveness is commanded for Christians! “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). We can stop forgiving others when Jesus Christ stops forgiving us.