The Problem with (Un)Forgiveness

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

According to Bruce Wilkinson’s book, THE FREEDOM FACTOR: FINDING PEACE BY FORGIVING OTHERS AND YOURSELF, pastors say that more than 90% of the people in their congregations struggle with unforgiveness.

That’s a major problem. It means that MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO GO TO CHURCH REGULARLY have trouble forgiving other people — and themselves. It’s no wonder Jesus talked about how important forgiveness is while He was here on earth. He knew it was a message we needed to hear — and take to heart.

Jesus was all about building good relationships — with God and with other people (Matthew 22:36–40; Mark 12:30–31; Luke 10:27). And you can’t do either if you don’t forgive.

Unforgiveness destroys our relationships with other people

Unforgiveness (also known as bitterness) builds up a wall between us and others — both those who have wronged us and even other people. We can become so afraid of being hurt again that we try to protect ourselves with that wall around our heart. But that wall also keeps love out. And it keeps our authentic selves locked inside where no one will ever see them.

That’s not how God meant for us to live. He meant for us to live in true fellowship with other people — especially other believers. And we can’t do that if we’re hiding behind our protective walls. Our refusal to forgive can make us prisoners in our own minds, bodies, and spirits. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (Galatians 5:1, NASB), not bondage to bitterness.

Unforgiveness destroys our relationship with God

Most of the things Jesus said about forgiveness are hard to hear because they sting and burn and cut to the heart of something we don’t want to face within ourselves. But there’s one verse that’s especially disturbing:

“…if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15, WEB)

Wait a minute. WHAT??? I thought God could forgive ANYTHING.

Well, He can…except for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (basically, rejection of God).

But I’m not rejecting God. I’m just refusing to forgive that person for what they did to me…or I can’t forgive myself for what I did.

But, see, if you’re refusing to forgive someone else, then you ARE rejecting God … or you’re setting yourself up to be God, which is about the same thing. You’re trying to take God’s place.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

He stands ready and waiting to forgive anyone for anything. He sent Jesus to die on the cross so that all COULD be forgiven for all time.

If we can’t forgive someone for the hurt they’ve caused us — or ourselves for something we’ve done in the past — it may be that we have not fully experienced God’s saving grace. Or, if we have, and we still choose to hold something back, then we’re not choosing God’s best for us. And that’s going to hinder our relationship with Him — it’s going to break our fellowship — until we let it go.

God wants us to let it go.

This is the second in a series on unforgiveness, and it’s Day 2 of a 30 posts in 30 days challenge. We’ll carry on tomorrow with a look at why it’s so difficult for us to forgive.