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The Battle Between Forgiveness and Unforgiveness

06.17.19 Topics:

Written by: Nathaniel Wall

Forgiveness has the power to heal, but unforgiveness is toxic to the soul. If you are reading this blog, it is likely because you recognize we wrestle with forgiving others. The idea of forgiveness being a struggle is reiterated by the volume of biblical passages that reminds us to strive in being forgiving. Why else would the Bible frequently remind us of to forgive unless it was a battle? Knowing that forgiveness is godly, I want to encourage our souls to think through the benefits of forgiveness. For just a few moments let’s encourage our souls to live for the glory of God that we find through his grace and forgiveness for us.

As we think through the battle between forgiveness and unforgiveness we can discover…. 

#1 Unforgiveness focuses my time and energy on things that destroy, while forgiveness frees my time and energy for things that bring life. Frankly, I want more time and energy to focus on building something that matters. This means I need to be serious about forgiveness. Consider the following words from Ephesians 4:27,31: “Don’t give the devil a foothold…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice”. Do I really want to consume my time on “rage, bitterness, anger slandering and malice”? These are words that destroy, and it sounds exhausting. Do I want to be known as a person that produces the fruit of destruction? Or do I prefer “Love, peace, and unity” (Colossians 3:13-14)? One set of words sucks life away, while the other set of words gives life. One takes energy the other produces energy. One set of words belongs to Jesus the other belongs to darkness.

#2 Unforgiveness traps you in the past unable to think about the future. Yet, forgiveness frees you from the past and looks toward the future. Satan wants you stuck in your past to keep you from moving forward in the glorious plan God has in store for you. In Ephesians 4:31 we find words like “anger”, “malice” and “rage”. These words are fueled by reliving past negative experiences–Satan’s trap (Eph 4:27). Words like “forgiveness”, “love”, “peace”, and “unity” are about where we are going and how we can enjoy that journey together (Colossians 3:13-14). Are you more interested in living in yesterday or today? What you do with forgiveness will determine how you take that step.

#3 Unforgiveness fuels fighting and forgiveness fuels friendship. Unforgiveness hinders your relationships (beginning with your relationships with God). Forgiveness focuses on growing your relationships (also beginning with your relationship with the Lord). Ephesians 4:31-32 contrasts the division created by unforgiveness and the reconciliation created by forgiveness. Forgiveness models the gospel.

Ephesians 4:31-32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The call of forgiveness (Colossians 3:13) is to recognize how Jesus forgave you. This is what brings you peace with God and others (Colossians 3:15). Live in that peace, not your past. Enjoy your walk with God. We are forgiven, and we will need to continue the practice of forgiveness with each other to experience the peace of God together.

A few closing thoughts. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget. Unfortunately, some people mistakenly believe that forgiveness must include forgetting. However, forgetting may not be helpful. Imagine if you have a friend who has struggled with a sin, and you “forget” and bring that friend into an environment where they will face that temptation… Forgetting could lead to faltering. In this case, forgetting is not beneficial. We should help people walk victorious lives in Jesus not by forgetting but by forgiving. We should want people to succeed.

We should strive to see people for more than their mistakes. Jesus did this for you. He looked beyond what we do, to see us for who we are, image bearers of God. We should strive to love others they way Jesus loves us. We often lack the desire to forgive because we tend to caricature a person by their struggles. We all have battles with sin. We win these battles through grace and forgiveness. Don’t judge another person’s whole life on an event. Take the kind of perspective on their life that you would want them to take on yours. Take the kind of perspective that Jesus takes on yours. Colossians 3:13,15 communicates that perspective for us. 

Colossians 3:13,15 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.