ME – FORGIVE THEM? REALLY??!
This is a challenging topic to address but I felt compelled to write about it. With the help of Holy Spirit I hope to help others with an issue that touches every one of us at some point and time(s) in our lives! I struggled many years with unforgiveness and bitterness myself, but came to understand through the Spirit of Revelation that my bitterness was only hurting me. I also realized that my resentment and unforgiveness was also holding back the grace of God toward those I had an offense against. They were unable to receive the grace of God they needed because I refused to pray for and forgive them. Stephen in the Book of Acts, was stoned for His witness and preaching the Gospel. Saul of Tarsus led the band. Saul killed and martyred Christians thinking he was doing God a service. He was a Pharisee and a zealot for God. There are those today in Islam who believe the same! While being stoned, the Bible says that Stephen saw the Heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father! Stephen prayed, “Lord do not lay this charge against them!” (Acts 7)
I believe God’s grace was released to them because Stephen prayed for forgiveness for his persecutors. Grace is defined as God’s UNMERITED favor to men. In other words none of us deserve it, but God’s love through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, made it possible for those who will repent of their sins and accept His atoning work on the cross! You see, later on Saul of Tarsus had a supernatural encounter with the risen Jesus Christ on the Road to Damascus! As a result of that encounter, Saul became Paul the Apostle and a mighty witness and missionary for Jesus Christ (Acts 9)! Stephen could have justifiably cursed all of them but he chose to forgive following the Messiah’s example that he witnessed at Calvary! I believe through Stephen’s unselfish prayer, Jesus was listening as He stood at attention and answered Stephen the Martyr’s prayer!
Healing from the offenses and/or hurts caused by others either directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, always begins with forgiveness. You can’t live on this earth very long without experiencing some kind of offense or hurt. Hurt people hurt people. Humans are all subject to error and mistakes! Sinners sin against God and others! No one sins unto themselves. Sin (hamartia) is defined as ‘missing the mark’. It affects those we are close to and have influence or authority over. Offended people who hold on to the offense long enough eventually see through a lens of offense in almost every situation they face. It affects our spiritual vision in a most negative way!
Let me share a brief story as an analogy…Several years ago, I had cataract surgery. The eye surgeon inadvertently put the wrong type of lens in my eye believing he was using the correct lens. That wasn’t the real issue. After he did corrective surgery to replace the lens, the trauma from having two eye surgeries in a short period of time caused my retina to detach. He learned afterwards that my retina was thin to begin with and the now gelatinous fluid from aging, caused a ‘pulling away’ of the retina from the wall of my eyeball. Needless to say, I had to have another eye surgery from a Retinal Specialist. This mistake caused me to be blind in my right eye for quite some time, nearly four months. After months of healing, I finally regained sight in that eye! The primary eye surgeon and I, along with my husband candidly discussed the issue. I forgave him of the mistake and he made restitution by not charging me for any of the cataract surgeries. He also took care of the subsequent retinal surgery performed by the Retinal Specialist. He also didn’t charge me for any post-surgical visits for the following year. Praise God I now have 20/20 vision! Because I regained complete vision I didn’t seek further restitution. He made a mistake but he made it right. Although my vision was affected by the mistake of another for several months, God came through by way of forgiveness and restitution!
Unforgiveness we hold on to for any length of time always turns into resentment which then turns into bitterness. Paul called a root of bitterness something that will defile you and others. It will spiritually infect ourselves and ultimately spread to others like a cancer (Hebrews 12:15). Paul called the root of bitterness “falling short of grace.” We are saved by grace through faith not by ourselves or our own righteousness! We ALL stand in the need of God’s grace-even daily! By being unforgiving and bitter, we frustrate and stop God’s grace from being extended to us and through us! Bitterness does more immediate harm to you than the other person you have unforgiveness against. Worst of all, our sins literally will NOT be forgiven if we won’t forgive. No matter how right or righteous of a person we think we are or the fact that we confess Jesus Christ as Lord, or claim to be a Christian, unforgiveness will keep us out of Heaven! It’s hypocritical for us to want God’s grace extended to us personally, yet believe the people who have hurt us and/ or other ‘wicked’ people don’t deserve it. “Bad people shouldn’t receive any grace or forgiveness from God!” The Bible says, “There is none righteous; no not one!” It’s only through God’s grace and forgiveness anyone can be accepted in Christ and receive the gift of eternal life!
“Because if you forgive people their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive people their offenses, your Father will not forgive your offenses.” Matthew 6:14-15 ISV
The person who has hurt you may not even know how you feel about them or realize the hurt they caused; but your bitterness will eat away at you like a cancer, not them. When you express your feelings of bitterness to others who are not involved, it infects them. Bitterness does not proceed from faith that works through love. It comes out of hatred, fear and unbelief. As mentioned before, it hinders and frustrates the work of God’s grace in and through you. The scriptural principle and correct way of dealing with offenses is found in Matthew 18: 15. Unfortunately, most of us don’t handle it that way. That’s how the enemy is able to get in and wreak havoc. “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Let me just say that there is a difference between someone truly sinning against you (knowingly or unknowingly) and something you interpret as an offense. Sometimes we take things way too seriously including ourselves. We may suffer from rejection or hypersensitivity and take innocent things people say or do personally. Let me also add that reconciliation is different than forgiveness. Reconciliation can be the result of forgiveness but it will only occur if there is mutual repentance. That means the offender needs to accept the fact they hurt you, repent of it to you, and offer restitution where necessary. Likewise, the offended needs to admit and repent of any bitterness and forgive as well. It takes a lot of humility to reconcile. If you wait for someone to admit their wrong(s) and repent to you about it while you remain in unforgiveness towards them, you won’t be made whole yourself. You need to release it all to the Father.
My earthly father and I were never truly reconciled before he passed away. His dysfunctional father passed that on to him and him to me and my mother. My relationship with my father was totally fear based not love based. However, after being Born Again for several years and reading the scriptures, I realized that I needed to forgive him. I began to pray for the grace of God to be released in his life for salvation. As a result, after 13 years of prayer and being a Christian witness before him, I was able to lead him to Christ on his deathbed. I never addressed the hurt he caused me at that time. I was unable to emotionally. Also, I doubt he would have recognized it. However, our complete reconciliation will be realized when we meet again in Heaven. I’m okay with that. My Heavenly Father is more than enough for me and has provided what was lacking in my formative years. Jesus is the only one who can reconcile us to the Father!
Having said all of this, how do you know if you are bitter? Here are some telltale signs: if you are critical, judgmental and or accusatory towards someone(s) for any supposed or justifiable reason. If you rehearse the hurt mentally and voice your offenses repeatedly to others-including Social Media! If you experience a lot of anxiety and tormenting thoughts as a result of dwelling on the hurt and pain of the past. If you have any of these symptoms or other ones there is a cure! I urge you to be honest with yourself, repent of any bitterness and forgive others so you can be free! You are the one being affected negatively most of all! Whether or not you realize it, the enemy has you spiritually bound. This bondage cuts off the flow of God’s Spirit and unmerited grace in your life. Diseases and infirmities are many times attached to a Spirit of Bitterness. Headaches, body aches, arthritis, diabetes and heart diseases are sometimes psychosomatic in nature. In other words, they are a result of mental dis-ease. Medical science bears this out.
Forgiveness does not mean that you approve of another person’s wrongs against you or humanity. What it does mean is that you are willingly following the example of Jesus Christ. While hanging on the cross innocently but willingly, with the most excruciating physical and emotional pain, Jesus said to the Father, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” You may say, they knew exactly what they were doing to me. According to Jesus, they didn’t. A person can be so convinced they are right in their actions that any effect of those actions upon another are totally justifiable in their own mind. It can actually be pathological. The enemy has them so bound they are sin sick to the point of having a twisted warped mentality and seared conscience. They really don’t “know” they have done wrong because they don’t know God or His nature. They have been blinded by the enemy of their soul!
Every one of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Jesus said to pray for our enemies. An enemy is not necessarily someone who disagrees with you but someone who wishes or does evil and/or retaliation upon you in some way. It’s important to discern the difference. Jesus also said to love those that hate you and do good to those who despitefully use and mistreat you. There’s no earthly reward in that but there is an eternal one awaiting if we obey His Word! Do you ever pray and ask God for forgiveness and grace when you are in trouble?
I think it is important that we pray together if you recognize that you have bitterness in your heart. I encourage you to address it head on and release it to the Father.
Let’s pray together! Just insert the person(s) name in the blanks as we pray…
Heavenly Father, I believe your Word and understand that you take the issue of unforgiveness very seriously. You said in Mathew 6: 14-15 that if I don’t forgive others their sins, I can’t be forgiven of mine. Despite how I feel emotionally I choose to forgive_______________as an act of my will in obedience to your Word. I ask for your forgiveness of all of my trespasses and sins as I forgive _____________for what they did to me whether they knew it or not; whether they admit it or not.
I realize all of us have fallen short of your glory and grace, including me, but I believe that Jesus died for me while I was yet a sinner. He rose from the dead to prove His triumph over sin, death and the grave that came about because of the sin of Adam. I pray that_________________will at some point receive your grace that leads to repentance. Your word also says to live in peace with all men as much as it lies within me. If it is not possible for me to live in peace with ____________ I pray and release them to you and ask for mercy and grace in their lives. I repent of rehearsing the hurt. I repent of talking about it repeatedly to others. I bless ___________ through prayer and speak life over them not death and word curses. Holy Spirit help me to pray for ___________ every time the pain or memory comes up in my mind or Satan tempts me with unforgiveness towards them again! I thank you for the courage to forgive and follow the example of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
- Date - February 8, 2018