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The Rot of Unforgiveness

Backbiting, complaining, murmuring, anger, bitterness, rage, offense…all things that have no place in anyone’s life, especially a disciple of Jesus. Have you ever been given the cold shoulder by someone? We all have at some point. That happened to me recently with another believer. I spoke, waved, and nothing. Just a glare. I even tried it again at another time. It’s an awkward feeling of divisiveness that looks entirely unlike how the Lord Jesus interacted with people. And yes, I have tried to repair the relationship…but it takes two. Now, I’ve been guilty of this sin of holding a grudge as well. It’s called unforgiveness. And the way Jesus said to handle it was simply to forgive. How important is it to forgive? Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). Unforgiveness not only kills relationships between people but God as well.

We have all committed these sinful acts mentioned above. None of us are perfect. But left unchecked, these can become more than one-time acts. They can become lifestyles. Each one of these can consume to the point they are all you think and talk about. They become idols. Whatever you think about, talk about, and do the most is what you worship. These actions can keep you from connecting with God in the intimate way you desire. Don’t believe me? Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure.”

Sometimes we pick up offense no one is laying down. We were angry, bitter, or offended before that situation and just took it out on them. Sometimes people confront us with real truth in love, and we choose not to accept it. So instead of getting it right in our hearts, we blame them. This kind of heart can rob everything from us, especially the relationship we used to have with them. So what do we do? Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” The first step is to go to them alone, forgive, repent, and restore (Matthew 18:15). If that doesn’t work, Matthew 18 says take other steps toward restoration. The goal isn’t just to forgive and throw away the relationship. It is to pursue the relationship until restoration happens. Walking away from the relationship communicates the exact opposite of what Jesus did for you and me. He willingly laid down His life for us on the cross. No one took it from Him (John 10:18). Hebrews 12:2 said it was for the joy He went to the cross to restore us to God.

If we don’t forgive, we harbor resentment, anger, malice, and perhaps wrath in our hearts and minds. No one would ever store rotten food in their refrigerator and keep stacking it in, ignoring the stench. And to dish it up to others would be not only inhospitable but downright cruel. But that’s what we do when we don’t forgive. No one likes to do it, but it’s time to open the doors to your cold heart, take out the trash, and make room for the fresh nourishment Christ wants to store in you. It’s time to clean out the fridge. It’s time to forgive.

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Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.

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