What Is Unforgiveness?
WHAT IS UNFORGIVENESS?
Unforgiveness is willful sin, selfishness, revenge, and condemnation. Since believers are commanded to forgive (Lk. 17:3-4; Mat. 18:32-35), unforgiveness is disobedience and therefore sin. It is willful because it is a choice: refusal to forgive.
Unforgiveness is selfish because it focuses more on the hurt received and the offender rather than on God. It is an expression of self-righteousness because the offended person believes that he is more deserving of God’s mercy than the person who hurt him.
Unforgiveness is revenge because he is trying to put himself in the position of God as judge (Rom. 12:19). Not only is the vengeful person implying that he can do a better job of delivering justice than God can, but he is also insinuating that God is not fair or just. He is withholding forgiveness until the offender earns it by doing what he demands. The unforgiving person thinks he is hurting the offender by unforgiveness, but he is actually hurting himself. Unforgiveness is like a cancer that grows and will eventually destroy him. He also thinks the offender will get away with it if he forgives him and does not punish him.
Unforgiveness is condemnation because it implies that what the offender did was so bad that God would not forgive him. Although believers are to judge behavior (Jn. 7:24; I Jn. 4:1) and fruit (Mat. 12:33; 3:7-10), they are not to judge motives of the heart and the eternal destiny of others (Rom. 2:16; I Cor. 4:5). It also implies that he could do a better job of dealing with him than God could.
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF UNFORGIVENESS?
Unforgiveness affects the offended person spiritually, socially, and physically. It leads to other sins of bitterness (Eph. 4:31; Heb. 12:15), wrath (Ps. 37:8; II Cor. 12:20), hatred, malice (Gal. 5:19-20; Col. 3:8), and murder (I Jn. 3:15).
As a result it separates from God (Isa. 59:2), and, if continued, it can lead to the loss of salvation (Mk. 11:26).
It undermines peace and joy, and hinders worship (Mat. 5:22-24) and prayer (II Pet. 3:7).
Since the offender becomes more important than God, it also leads to bondage to the past, idolatry, and prevents God’s forgiveness and healing (Lk. 4:18) of the unforgiving person.
Unforgiveness hinders social relationships because the hurt person tends to be more irritable and quarrelsome and wants to gossip and slander the offender to gain sympathy and support against him. Sometimes the offended person will isolate himself from others to try to avoid any more hurts. Since we are body, soul, and spirit, what happens to one part effects the other parts, so unforgiveness can also cause physical problems (Ps. 32:3-4; 38:2-10).
HOW DO WE FORGIVE?
Forgiveness is also a choice of the will to obey the command of God in spite of feelings or circumstances. It is an act of faith based on what Christ did on the Cross and dependence on the Holy Spirit to change his heart’s desire and give the necessary power (Phil. 2:13).
It is the result of remembering the greater mercy given to him when he was saved and did not deserve it (Mat. 18:23-35; Rom. 5:8). It is commanded, even if the offender does not repent (Mat. 18:35; Lk. 17:3-4) and is for the benefit of the person forgiving.
Forgiving someone is, in essence, giving that person to God because he believes God can handle the offender better than he can. By doing that, he is making an unconditional, unilateral disarmament toward the offender. He needs to repent of the sin of unforgiveness and ask God to give him love for his enemy (Mat. 5:44).
He should also “forget” or quit talking and thinking about the hurt. That means to stop running the “instant replays” of the incident to himself and others.
Is there someone you need to forgive? Why not share with that person one of the greatest gifts that you received from God: forgiveness.