What is unforgiveness?

“A simple definition of unforgiveness is “a grudge against someone who has offended you”. Another definition of unforgiveness is not having the compassion to forgive. Unforgiveness is a sin that causes us to think and do evil things. If someone has offended us, we have a choice to either forgive them or not forgive them. Unforgiveness is when we choose not to have compassion for someone that has offended us, and we choose not to have the willingness to forgive them. Matthew 18:33 advises us to have compassion for our fellowman as God has had mercy on us.”

In Mark 11 the Bible tells us, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26). There are numbers of scriptures in the bible that always points us to forgiveness. We are told by Jesus that if we do not forgive then we cannot be forgiven. Yet unforgiveness is one of the besetting sin that plague and bound many professing Christians across the Body of Christ. 

Just like the picture above with a little light and a little water coming in; when we harbours unforgiveness we have a little light and we can be washed in the water of the word of God. However, like the picture above we see light and water but mostly dark areas. That’s why Jesus says if we have a little darkness how great is that darkness. Many have deceived themselves believing that they can hold onto a grudge/offence which will mature into unforgiveness because of what they believe was done to them. The bible tells us in Colossians 3:12-13 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” The problem is that many of us view forgiveness as our own personal thing that we are doing for the person when it is indeed a choice to be obedient to the word of God.  Therefore, if we find it difficult to forgive we have to call upon God who will enable us with amazing grace to do what Jesus did for us all; as we forgive our brothers and sisters their trespasses. Consider Albert Zehr’s article below which encourages all of us to forgive from our hearts. He highlights and cited wonderful scriptures to shows us that true forgiveness is indeed possible because God makes the impossible possible. 

Albert Zehr’s – Dealing With Offence

Forgive in your heart Matt. 7:1-5: 18:21,35; Rom. 3:23
There is something about us that we always want to pick the speck out of another’s eye, but ignore the plank in our own. Matt. 7:1-5 tells us to first deal with our side of the problem. Practically, this means to forgive from our heart (Matt. 18: 35), even if there is no apology. It may mean to forgive seventy time seven times (Matt. 18:21). This is much easier when we truly see that all have sinned and come short (and always will) of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). 
Many times we would like to bypass offences and just try to forget it. But in our inner heart, we know that it is still there and not fully dealt with. If we ignore this inner feeling our conscience will become weaker and our fellowship with the Lord more distant, so we must be honest and ask the Lord to work in us until the matter is fully gone and we are free. Prov. 20:22; Eph. 4:26; Rom. 12:19

Take the illustration of the African way to trap a monkey. They simply place a sweetened stick inside a cage. The monkey reaches through between the narrow bars and grabs the stick. Now he is not able to pull his hand back through the bars while holding the stick. Refusing to let go of the stick, the monkey keeps himself captive and is easily captured. As we hear this story we want to shout, “Drop the stick!” While this sounds unbelievable, many people refusing to drop an offense are keeping themselves in captivity and subject to the enemy’s entrapment just because they won’t, “Drop the stick!!!” 

Proverbs 20:22 says, “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord and He will deliver you.” Eph. 4:26 tells us, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”How can I know when a matter is fully dealt with? When I can drop it having no more interest or need to nurse it or revive it. When seeing the other person no longer evokes any feelings of strain or animosity. When a wound festers, there is still some infection there which must be dealt with. Another evidence is that I can trust the Lord fully when He says that if there is any need to avenge, He will look after it (Rom. 12:19).

1 Peter 1: 22, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” takes on new meaning. Obedience brings a cleansing. When I am cleansed, suddenly I have a new level of love even toward those by whom I was offended. Not only is my heart washed so that love can flow again, it seems that my eyes are also washed and I see others in a new light so love again comes naturally.
It is interesting to note that another reference to washing and being sanctified, 1 Cor. 6:11, comes in the middle of a chapter about dealing with offences. When in a state of offence, I feel that there is something bitter and unclean plaguing my heart. When I deal with it, I feel clean, pure and free. Walking and living in true wisdom. The Apostles, Paul, James and Peter each talk about the manner of life we ought to live to avoid offence. Paul says that he exercised himself to keep his conscience free of offence (Acts 24:16; 2 Cor. 6:3). An awesome recipe for offence free living comes from James. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow a harvest of righteousness” (James 3: 17). Albert Zehr concludes his article by telling this true story on forgiveness when it seems impossible.

A Story of Forgiveness Told By Albert Zehr

An actual story of forgiveness when it’s impossible.The following is a true story which is taken from a tract written by my close friend Richard A. Nelson. The father referred to in the story is also a personal acquaintance. It all started about 8:40 p.m. when we received a call that the son of a neighbor and dear friend was missing. Police helicopters were there as we went to the complex where the boy had last been seen.The boy’s bicycle and some clothes were found. The tears and the panic increased as the father, my son and I searched relentlessly. The part that staggered me as much as the apparent tragedy was that the father prayed as we walked. Amid his fear he yielded to God. Amid the terror of the situation, he pleaded to God to forgive the perpetrator. He prayed for his son, yes, but he asked the Lord to save the kidnapper from his lost condition into the kingdom of God. He really wanted his son’s attacker to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. To forgive in certain situations may be imaginable. But even as a fellow-believer, I was astonished by the love for God and man without condition, which I realized through my dear Christian brother in this tragic moment.I can still hear the shrieks in the middle of the night when the detectives came to disclose the horrible circumstances under which this innocent child was destroyed. But even through the tears of pain for his child, this father also cried and prayed for the murderer.I saw the express embodiment of the love of God in this father in a circumstance where human love would certainly fail. He freely forgave even as he had realized the forgiveness of God for his own sin and fallen life in earlier years.The loss of his only son took place close to twenty years ago. This father could be a bitter, remorseful and angry man. But he is still loving God and still forgiving and blessing others. What a testimony of the practical genuineness and experience of dealing with offence.Truly, as John Bevere says, “Our response to offence deter-mines our future.” The above true story is tragic especially since a life was lost. However, despite the despair or the pain we are commanded by God to forgive so that we can be forgiven. Dr Charles also highlights what is true forgiveness – it is not a feeling; but an action. We must never act on how we feel. We must ask God to help us and give us the strength to see things through His point of view.

Charles Stanley – The Struggle With Unforgiveness 

True forgiveness is not a feeling, but an action. If you find it hard to forgive others, take an active role in the process by following these four guidelines:

1) Acknowledge and confess an unforgiving spirit. No, it is not always easy to forgive someone. We are sometimes the targets of tremendously hurtful offenses. However, we are not responsible for other people’s behavior; we are responsible only for our own. God commanded us to be loving, forgiving people. If we are unforgiving, that is our problem and no one else’s – we must repent of this sin and ask God to help our unforgiveness. 

2) Release the other person. Make a conscious decision to release the offender in your mind. When you find yourself reliving the details of the upsetting behavior, force yourself to stop.

3) Forgive the offender forgetfully. When you keep the details fresh in your mind, you trap yourself in a cycle of pain. Choose instead to separate the individual from the painful memory.

4) Forgive with finality. True forgiveness is complete. This means that you cannot “forgive” someone and then continually bring the subject up. Forgive them and move on. If you have been nursing a grudge against a specific person, ask God for the strength to forgive. Then, do it!  

Scriptures About Unforgiveness

  • Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
  • Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
  • Ephesians 4:26-27 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
  • Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
  • Proverbs 24:17 “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,”
  • 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
  • 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Matthew 18:21-35 “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desired me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
  • Colossians 3:12-13 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
  • 1 John 4:20 “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
  • Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
  • 1 Peter 1:9 “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”
  • Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
  • James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
  • Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
  • Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
  • Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
  • Matthew 5:23-24 “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
  • Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
  • 1 Peter 5:7 “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
  • Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” 
  • Colossians 1:13-14 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Luke 17:3-4 “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
  • Matthew 26:28 “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Luke 23:34 “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”1 John 2:1-29 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.”

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