I have a problem with unforgiveness and I never really viewed as an issue until recently. When I was little my family used to make jokes about how I held grudges, but I’ve learned unforgiveness can only be a joke for so long before it starts to eat you alive. In order to begin living a life of forgiveness, there are three steps that we must take: Admit we’re Angry, Identify our Imperfections, and Find Freedom in the Father.
"We cannot worship a God who is purely love and continue to be a slave to hatred."
Everyone struggles with unforgiveness at some point in their life, so I figured that we might as well overcome this stronghold together. I know I am not the only person at church who worships and declares my love for God while carrying hatred in my heart towards others. Can I tell you what’s ironic about that? The message version of 1 John 4:20-21 says, “if anyone boasts, ‘I love God,’ and continues to hate his brother or sister, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have been given from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to do both.” God at His very core is love, and whoever does not know how to love, does not know God (4:10). We cannot worship a God who is purely love and continue to be a slave to hatred. We cannot praise a God who is rich in mercy and continue to walk in vengeance, and we cannot glorify a God who is immersed in forgiveness and continue to be engulfed by resentment.
"Once you allow God to wipe your tears, calm your spirit, and soften your heart, the healing process will finally begin."
The Bible tells us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and turn the other cheek, but it’s not that easy is it? In order to learn how to forgive, we must first locate where our unforgiveness stems from. The root of unforgiveness is anger, and the root of anger is often some form of rejection and pain. Unforgiveness is caused by a wound that hasn’t healed, and in order for a wound to begin the healing process it must first be exposed. A cut cannot heal if we continue to cover it with a bandage, likewise we will not be able to forgive if we continue to repress our anger. Stop being tormented by your anger in silence, instead acknowledge your anger and trust that God will replace it with His peace. Once you allow God to wipe your tears, calm your spirit, and soften your heart, the healing process will finally begin.
"If Jesus was able to forgive the ones who crucified Him, we must also forgive those who have wounded us."
Now that we have dug up the root to our unforgiveness, we can move onto the next step: Identifying our Imperfection. When we harbor resentment towards someone, we often tend to victimize ourselves instead of acknowledging our faults. Think about someone who has been angry at you and someone who you have inflicted pain on. Now think about someone who has forgiven you despite the despair you have caused them. If no one came to mind, I know a person that we have all caused great agony to...Jesus. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” in the eyes of God we are just as bad as the people who have wronged us. We are unworthy of God’s forgiveness, yet he continues to lavish His grace and mercy onto us. We are not entitled to our anger towards someone who has “stabbed us in the back” when we are the ones responsible for the nails in Christ’s hands, and if we are unable to forgive others, our Father in heaven will not forgive us (Matthew 6:15). Christ looked down at the ones who crucified Him with compassion, and He cried out to God not in anger, but in mercy as He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Christ looks down on us everyday with the same compassion and forgives us with the same mercy no matter how often we sin against Him. One of my favorite verses is Romans 5:8 because it illustrates the depth of God’s love, “but God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” when the world viewed us as unforgivable Jesus thought we were worth dying for. I tend to forget that this verse doesn’t only apply to me, it also applies to the people who have hurt me. Christ died for you in your darkest moments, but He also forgave your enemies at their darkest. Christ doesn’t pick and choose whom He is going to forgive and neither should we. If Jesus was able to forgive the ones who crucified Him, we must also forgive those who have wounded us.
"Harboring unforgiveness towards someone doesn’t hurt them, it only destroys us."
Okay so now what? We know what’s causing our unforgiveness and we know that we’re supposed to forgive because Christ forgives us, but how do we actually compel ourselves to forgive someone that has broken us? The answer is simple - give it to God - but actually acting on it...that’s the difficult part. Honestly, I’ve known all along that I have to give my resentment to God. I know it’s the Christian thing to do, but I refuse to let go because it’s the only sense of control that I have. So I began to cling to my hatred and anger because it made me feel empowered. How ridiculous does that sound? I’m over here allowing my thoughts to be consumed with hatred towards someone who doesn’t even think about me. That’s what unforgiveness does, it stops our lives and it gives the devil a foothold over us because as long as we are focused on our hatred for someone else, we are unable to accomplish the calling that God has on our lives. Harboring unforgiveness towards someone doesn’t hurt them, it only destroys us. Stop being burdened by your unforgiveness and give it to God. Replace anger with reading God’s Word, replace the angry conversations in your mind with praying for the person you’re angry at, and you will begin to see them through the eyes of Jesus. I know you’re hurting, but let Jesus heal that hurt. I know your wounded, but let Jesus cleanse those wounds with His love. Let go of your unforgiveness and let God not only soften your heart, but mend it. Forgive and I promise you God will begin to change your life.