To Forgive or Not To Forgive

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Matthew 6:14-15
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Unforgiveness is one of the greatest “cancers” the world has ever known. Tragically, many Christians tend to view forgiveness as something honourable, but optional. We are very much influenced by the popular media’s perspective of forgiveness. Once in a while, we watch a movie that has someone forgive another, however, most of the time, we watch how “the hero” seeks revenge and kills the enemies.

One of the hallmarks of being a Christian should be the fact that we, unlike people of other religions, and unlike those who have receive salvation through Jesus, are practitioners of forgiveness. God has even saved us by forgiving our sins while we were yet sinners.

Many of us who call ourselves Christians and who have attended church for a long time and listened to Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness, deep inside our hearts, do not see the need to forgive those who have “terribly” wronged us.  When we are encouraged to forgive, we consider it a difficult, if not, impossible choice. We have often listened to sermons as one listens to stories. We sometimes do not and cannot not identify ourselves with the characters in the Bible. Instead of being encouraged or challenged to follow the example of the Godly characters in the Bible, we try to distance ourselves and make statements like “I am not Paul”, “I am not Mary” and “I am not Jesus”, meaning that we are not them and we do not need to be like them.

We live our lives, hanging on to the memory of the hurts, like a person who hangs on to his “comfort pillow”. I know of a brother-in-Christ who was hurt by a fellow believer worshipping in the same church. He refuses to forget the hurting words that were said by the offending brother. He even treasures the emails that contain the hurting words, like a person who treasures the loving words uttered by a lover. He refuses to delete them from his email account and reads them every now and then to refresh his memory of those hurting words. If anyone in church should attempt to be the peacemaker, he would be most ready to forward to them the series of hurtful emails. He somehow feels that keeping those emails would help him justify his reason for hanging on to his hurt and hate.

By doing that, he is likened to keeping a wound open and refusing to nurse it so that he can show proof of how he has been hurt and that proof will hopefully help others to understand why he does not need to forgive the other party. He even hopes to convince others to join him in hating that other brother in church or at least to pity him for being a victim. He gets really angry with any attempt to help him understand the other party as he does not see how there can be any misunderstanding as the emails are very clear to him.

As you can imagine, this brother eventually becomes more and more difficult for people to communicate with as he is so full of anger and bitterness. After a while, when nobody seems to “understand” or “identify” with his hurt, he feels that the whole world is against him and convinces himself that nobody loves him. He then draws into his own “shell” and becomes lonely and depressive and loses his joy and purpose in life.

Since he insists on hanging on to his hurt and bitterness, God, who is holy, cannot communicate with him too. God is waiting for him to forgive his brother so that He can forgive him and restore that relationship again. However, as time drags on, this brother begins to backslide because God’s Words have become meaningless to him and occasionally when he is encouraged to pray, he feels that his prayers go no further than his own lips as they no longer could come from his heart, which is now hardened.

God did not suggest that we forgive others when they wrong us but He commands us to forgive. He understands the pain and the hurts but in His love, He commands us to forgive because if we do not forgive, we hurt even more. We will end up like this brother-in-Christ, who will eventually die a spiritual death due to the cancer of unforgiveness.

I don’t know if I am speaking to someone today who has been hurt and who has chosen to hang on to that hurt, afraid somehow that if you let it go, you will lose a part of yourself. Just as a cancerous growth in the body needs to be cut off before the rest of the body can completely heal, I encourage you to cut that hurt off, let go of it. Give it to Jesus, tell Jesus all about the hurt and ask Him to take it away, cut it off from you and then make that brave and obedient step to forgive as God commands. Let it go and set yourself free from the cancer of unforgiveness and let God heal you and bring back that joy of salvation into your life.

Let us pray.

“Dear God, I thank You that You have sent Jesus to die for my sins while I was still a sinner. I thank You that through Jesus, all my sins of past, present and future have already been forgiven when I give my life to Him. Father, I choose this day to let go of all the hurt and bitterness in my heart. I choose to forgive those who have hurt me just as You have commanded. Teach me and lead me to always be quick to forgive when I am wronged or hurt by others. Thank You for the strength to forgive. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.”

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