Living on Purpose: Preventing seeds of unforgiveness to germinate
By Dr. William Holland
How much grace does it take to love our enemies? That’s a good question. Tragedies occur all around us and it’s true we are heartbroken and disturbed, but how do we react when our family is harmed or we are personally offended? I admit that I do not always have the character of Christ when I’m being threatened or provoked to anger. Our natural reaction is to retaliate because that’s a natural part of our carnal nature. Most of us agree that people need to be punished for their evil deeds, but Christians must remember the temptation to hold unforgiveness against anyone must be resisted. Yes, we will face challenges and situations that attempt to lure us into loathing attitudes but, it’s forgiveness and love that keeps us on the narrow way of peace and contentment.
When we dwell on retaliation, our joy which is our spiritual strength evaporates and we become weak and discouraged. The brooding desire for revenge will emotionally, mentally, and spiritually hold us in the bondage of misery. If we allow ourselves to become weighed down with animosity, our relationship with God suffers which is why it’s so important to not become entangled with the poison of hatred. To those around us, we may seem fine, but on the inside, we are seething with contempt. Do you secretly have resentment against someone today? Let us remember this internal agonizing battle is not forced upon us, we decide to participate. Our natural mind loves to justify corrupt attitudes, and if we continue to focus on vengeance instead of asking for God’s help we are allowing the darkness of sin to control and hold us hostage. Sadly, many would rather live in the agony of hostility instead of releasing their agony to God and allowing Him to execute vengeance and justice His way.
As a chaplain, I remember a few years ago being called by a healthcare facility to pray for an elderly gentleman that was near death. He was barely able to understand or communicate because of the heavy doses of morphine. His son was sitting next to the bed and after a while, he started to talk about his dad. They were not close, and he began to describe a man that was not only harsh and uncaring but abusive. I could sense the deep emotional pain as he began to tell a sad story about a disappointed and wounded family. The son was a Christian and had been dealing with resentment for years. As he continued to share about the power of forgiveness, I could sense the love and peace of God in his countenance. If we sincerely repent and ask the Lord to step into our situation, He is the only one who can bring true hope and healing to our hearts and minds.
When watching a toddler, we notice they react to basic experiences of hunger, affection, disappointment, happiness, and anger but are only beginning to learn what it means to be offended. Resentment and bitterness are negative attitudes and it’s only through inviting Christ to become our Lord and allowing His truth to transform our minds that we can be molded into His way of merciful thinking. He wants us to be honest with Him and not suppress these ugly imaginations that not only can build a wall between us and the Lord, it also makes us toxic to those around us. Just how serious is unforgiveness? Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Hatred is silent but deadly and is like a growing infection that can desensitize us from having compassion for anyone or anything. Since the Christian’s greatest asset is love, the enemy of our soul will use anything he can to prevent us from forgiving and praying for others. May we never discard our responsibility to humbly serve and obey Christ because we are blinded by our plans to get even with someone. Whatever they have done to hurt us, we have the choice to let it go so that we can live in the joy of God’s presence. Some may boldly declare they cannot forgive but this is not true. Forgiveness is a choice as the Bible reminds us in Proverbs 13:18, “Poverty and shame will come to those who refuse instruction: but they who embrace correction will be honored.
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