It hurts. A deep lash has opened a wound on our heart. The pain from something or someone has scarred our spirit and left a wounded mark never to be forgotten. As with any abrasion, recovery is a long and agonizing process. Although the deep gash isn’t physical the effects permeate every fiber of our being. It feels physical. The pain is real, but the hurt is emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Painful experiences are a part of life. Wounds from words, situations, arguments, relationships, lies, deception, and flared emotions are difficult to heal from. Christians are not immune from the devastating effects of arguments or broken relationships. We hold our most prized possession in our hands – our hearts. We give individuals the opportunity to love and tenderly cultivate friendships and relationships. Our identity is vulnerable; our innermost thoughts exposed. Then the unthinkable happens – a painful word, argument, or situation. Here lies our choice. Do we forgive or do we hold onto unforgiveness?
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines forgive as to cease to feel resentment against an offender; to give up resentment of or claim to requital; to grant relief from payment of. Synonyms of forgiveness range from: pardon, absolve, acquit, clear, exonerate, vindicate, remit, discharge, redeem, release, unburden, and excuse. Resentment is defined as a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury. Synonyms of resentment are: grievance, grudge, score, condemnation, offense, complaint, hatefulness, malice, meanness, spite, bitterness, and antagonism.
As we read and digest the definitions of these two words, I would encourage you to take a moment and reflect on a time when someone forgave you. Maybe it was a thoughtless remark, a rude comment, gossip, an affair, theft, an accident, or something deeper. Can you recall the emotion felt when the pardon, the acquittal, the exoneration, the redeeming, the release, and your excuse were forgiven?
Your heart was probably overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy. Forgiveness is a beautiful act of mercy and love. Nehemiah 9:17 reads, “But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness.” “Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, favored by God] is he whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).
The Amplified Bible pairs forgiveness with words such as: canceled, pardoned, mercy, trust, favor, atonement, grant, and release. As Christians we receive these words with joy for our spirits are connected to the Living God. We receive a constant flow of forgiveness through the Holy Spirit because of God’s mercy and loving-kindness to His people. It is by nothing we have done or works we have accomplished. Forgiveness is nothing short of a free gift God presents daily through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Christians are called to forgive. I believe this one act maybe the most challenging for human hearts. The world around Christians believes if you forgive, the other person is right. If you continually forgive, then you are a doormat. You can forgive, but not forget. If you forgive, you’re a fool. Thank goodness the world is in opposition to the spirit – your flesh is at war with your spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia in regards to the flesh and God’s Spirit. I believe this is where the challenge to forgive presses on numerous hearts. The world has valid points, but we are followers and imitators of Christ. If we have the Holy Spirit, meaning we have received God’s precious Spirit willingly through our acceptance of Jesus Christ, then He desires you walk in His Spirit. This habitual, daily walk includes forgiveness.
“But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever you want to do. But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law.
Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.
If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:16-25).
I highlight words I believe Christians need to plant and cultivate in their hearts. If I claim to live in God’s Spirit, then I must walk by the Spirit. As mentioned previously, His Spirit is merciful, abounding, and loving-kind. Our Father forgives as we seek forgiveness and repent for our sins. He desires the same attitude within His followers.
We are called to forgive. “For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14).
“Then Peter came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, how many times will my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered him ‘I say to you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven’ ” (Matthew 18:21-22). “Even if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him [that is, give up resentment and consider the offense recalled and annulled]” (Luke 17:4).
“Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him [drop the issue, let it go], so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions and wrongdoings [against Him and others]. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions]” (Mark 11:25-26).
When Christians recognize their own need for daily forgiveness, then the act of forgiving another is understood. In humility, we pray and ask God to forgive an offense we have committed, which has grieved His Spirit. In response, the Word of God says He forgives our trespasses and remembers them no more. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His loving-kindness towards those who fear and worship Him [with awe-filled respect and deepest reverence]. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father loves his children, so the Lord loves those who fear and worship Him [with awe-filled respect and deepest reverence]” (Psalm 103:11-13).
Holding on to unforgiveness interferes in our relationship with God. As Matthew 6:14 in the Amplified Bible eloquently reads, “For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses,” Christians can hinder their relationship with God. I think this verse reminds us the Lord understands hurt for the words reckless and willful are used. Sin is painful and at times purposeful, but we are called to forgive the offender. This verse also reminds Christians of what unforgiveness is – nurturing hurt and anger.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines nurture as to train or up bring; something that nourishes; influencing the behavior and traits expressed by an organism. If you can get a mental image of nurturing and holding onto your pain – as if you were nourishing and giving it food or training and upbringing the hurtful situation continuously in your spirit – then you can visually see why unforgiveness is detrimental to your relationship with God. The pain is never forgotten.
I live off mental imagery. If the Lord can place a picture in my heart to understand His Word better, then I feed of that picture. When I was praying over this book, a few mental pictures came to mind. Unforgiveness is like a cactus. Daily, we hold onto a plant – nourishing and feeding it life-giving food – but it continually pokes, prods, and stings our hands and hearts. We sit with it, sleep with it, and live with it daily. The stings of the plant are painful at first, but we learn to live with the everyday throbbing pain. It seems ridiculous, but that is unforgiveness.
Unforgiveness can be deceiving. It seems we are doing the right thing: guarding our heart, protecting our spirit, and never allowing a person to hurt us again. But, we may actually believe a lie. Picture taking care of a venomous snake. Your heart may become so use to feeding and caring for the reptile that your guard is let down for a moment. The snake bites with a quick, venomous force. You have minutes to receive the anti-venom or death will ensue. The lie believed is – because you have loved and cared for a creature (a person) that particular creature will never hurt you. Wrong. The snake will strike with a poison deadly enough to kill. The spirit of unforgiveness will make you believe you are doing the right thing, but in actuality, you could not be further from God.
It is a hard truth to humbly accept you are actually feeding and expressing the trait for which is causing bitterness, division, anger, frustration, hatred, animosity, and anxiety because you refuse to forgive. In Day 3, we will read the effects of unforgiveness on your mental, physical, and spiritual health. The Bible is amazing and initiative to human nature. God knew exactly what would happen to His people if they chose to hold onto unforgiveness.
We are called to forgive. Jesus Christ exemplified this truth and we are to be imitators of this truth. My prayer is this chapter planted a seed in your spirit – a seed of truth, realization, and humility if there is any unforgiveness in your life. My prayer is these verses touched an area in your heart or spirit where God needs to work and you allow Him to restore what the enemy is determined to destroy.
Remember, forgiveness is a beautiful, purposeful act of mercy and kindness. Because God is mercy, kindness, and love, He cannot help but exude these qualities. As His followers, we receive His Spirit to do the same. We will end everyday with a prayer of God’s Word. His Words have the power to heal and reveal. May they open a door of forgiveness and restoration in your life.
A Receiver of Truth
Word Association: Write the first word that comes to your spirit as you see these words. What do you believe in your heart?
Lie Believed: I can’t forgive.
Confession: Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Worship song in prayer: “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin
Journal First Emotions and Thoughts
The Forgiving Christian
Let us pray and CONFESS the Word of the Living God
We are called to forgive.
“Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, favored by God] is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute wickedness and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all the daylong. For day and night your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me; my energy was drained away as with the burning heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my wickedness; I will confess all my transgressions to the Lord and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you [for forgiveness] in a time when you are near and may be found; surely whey the great waters [for trial and distressing times] overflow they will not reach the spirit in him.
You are my hiding place; you Lord, protect me from trouble; you surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you who are willing to learn with my eye upon you. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which has no understanding, whose trappings include bridle and rein to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in and relies on the Lord shall be surrounded with compassion and loving-kindness. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous [who actively seek right standing with Him]; shout for joy, all you upright in heart” (Psalm 32).
Picture from: www.continuingstudies.wisc.edu.com