My Dad was so enthralled by God’s grace that he used to say he wanted one word on his tombstone. It was the word: “FORGIVEN.”
We would all agree to his wish, thinking that day would never come. But it did come. And when it was time to write his tombstone, this request was respected.
Forgiveness is the greatest need that people have.
In accounts of the Welsh revival we read that SIN was not the main burden the people felt when the Spirit was poured out, but SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS was the burning conviction. And an unforgiving spirit was the biggest barrier to blessing!
Yet there are those who refuse to forgive.
We make excuses for our un-forgiveness. The most common excuse is: “I do not have to forgive until the other party repents and ASKS for my forgiveness.” And we have a verse to back up our unwillingness to forgive. “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4.
And so we lay emphasis on that condition “if he repent, forgive him!” But that waiting for repentance is so unlike the Master Who prayed: “Father forgive them,” as they nailed Him to the cross – with absolutely no sign of repentance! And we must never forget: “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:8.
Another barrier to our un-forgiveness is self-pity. “I’m hurt,” we say, “and it’s going to take a long time for me to get over this.” And oftentimes it is true. We are hurt. But if we are hurt, it makes much more sense to put things right – and the sooner the better.
Anger is another reason for un-forgiveness. But we hide our anger in the guise of “righteous indignation.” And we use Jesus with whip in hand as our role model. “They need to learn a lesson,” we cry! But Jesus was not standing up for Himself. He was standing up for the House of the Lord, the House of Prayer that they had made into a den of thieves. It was a zeal for the Lord’s House that motivated Him.
Oftentimes, we know someone who has an un-forgiving spirit. They have become so bitter over an incident that happened weeks or even years ago, and they have never let it go. They have used all the excuses they could, and still cannot get over it. And the worst thing is that the person, who offended them in the beginning, has now totally forgotten the entire episode. But the one, who was at first in the right in the historic issue, is now in the wrong through their failure to forgive, and forget. (It is impossible to forget, if we do not forgive)!
No doubt you have met such a person who is held captive by un-forgiveness. But here’s the kicker.
That bitter, pathetic, unforgiving brother or sister aggravates us so much, and distresses our spirit as they continue to bring up their grievance. Every time we are with them, we feel the burden of it, and we try to avoid them!
And at that moment, the tables have turned.
We have become just like them.
We have become the UNFORGIVING because we did not forgive the un-forgiving!
i. See http://www.stanleysmith.org.uk
ii. “Kicker” = North American slang meaning an unexpected and unwelcome discovery or turn of events.