If you are a typical Christian, you are likely infected with a spiritual disease that is poisoning you on the inside. Many don’t even know they have the problem. Like a cancer, this malady will slowly destroy your spiritual health. It will short-circuit experiencing the fullness of victory in Christ faster than almost anything.
What is this disease? Unforgiveness. Failure to forgive those who have treated us wrongly is an epidemic in the modern church. It robs us of the joy that Jesus came to give us and causes us to become judgmental toward others. It creates an underlying negativity in our attitude that will affect every area of our lives.
What does it mean to forgive? Forgiveness is the deliberate choice to release a person from all obligation he has toward us as a result of any offense he has committed against us. Consider that definition and ask the Holy Spirit is there is any unforgiveness in you toward any other person.
Misunderstandings About Forgiveness
Many think that there is no need to forgive others because they have a misunderstanding about the meaning of forgiveness. Consider a few of the common faulty beliefs about forgiveness.
1. Time heals all wounds.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds. If you believe that just because you don’t feel the pain of a past offense anymore, it doesn’t need further attention, you’re hurting yourself. Hurts in our lives have an accumulative effect unless we forgive those who wrong us. It produces an underlying anger that will affect the way we relate to everything in life.
Frank Minirth and Paul Meier wrote in their book, Happiness Is A Choice:
Anger is hard to deal with unless an individual realizes it is there. If he becomes angry out of proportion to the actual event, it may be because the event reminded him of another period in his life when he felt inferior and inadequate. The current event reinforced those past feelings and insecurities. Perhaps 25% of his response was to the current situation, and the other 75% was his reaction to feelings that were long ago repressed.
Is your reaction to frustrating incidents in your life out of proportion to the incident itself? Unforgiveness may be the root cause. We live in an angry society. If you doubt that fact, watch the drivers in other cars during your drive to work tomorrow. Watch the evening news. Ours is an angry world. We have all been hurt at times. The only way to be freed from anger is to forgive.
2. To forgive somebody else, I must have feelings of forgiveness.
This is an error that can keep you imprisoned in unforgiveness. Forgiveness is a deliberate choice to release a person. It isn’t a feeling we have. It is a choice we make. Don’t believe the lie that it would be hypocritical to forgive just because you don’t feel it. Our feelings aren’t the basis for our actions as Christians. We live by faith, not feelings.
After we choose to forgive others, healing will gradually come to our feelings. If, however, we wait until we feel like forgiving, it may never happen. Don’t allow negative feelings to keep you from forgiving. Rise above your feelings and act in faith.
3. They don’t deserve to be forgiven.
Of course they don’t! If they deserved it, there would be no need for forgiveness. To forgive someone is to extend grace (undeserved favor) to them. We don’t forgive because others deserve it. We forgive them because we have been forgiven and because we want to be set free from the damaging effects of unforgiveness in our own lives.
The Bible says, “forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Did you deserve God’s forgiveness? He forgave us by His grace. That is how we forgive others. Not because they deserve it, but because we choose to show them grace.
Do you want to be set free from the burden of unforgiveness? Forgiveness is the gateway to freedom from underlying anger, resentment, bitterness, negativity. Never does a Christian more clearly express the indwelling life of Christ than when we forgive those who have wronged us. Don’t be held captive by misunderstandings about forgiveness. Choose, by faith, to release those who have hurt you and you will discover that, in the process, God is releasing you.
“Forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
(This devotion on forgiveness will be continued next week.)