The Fatal Poison of Unforgiveness

by an unknown author

Recently I made comments from the pulpit on the devastating problem of unforgiveness. The reality is that most Christians struggle with unfruitful lives due to some issue of unforgiveness and bitterness in their lives. When we don't forgive others, we simply cannot abide in the loving forgiveness of God. When we don't abide, we don't bear fruit. Below is an article by an unknown author that speaks plainly on this issue. My prayer is that each of us may have lives touched by His grace!

  "After more than twenty years in ministry, I have concluded that over 90 percent of all problems are rooted in unforgiveness. Jesus emphasizes forgiveness by saying God's kingdom is a matter of forgiveness and those who do not forgive are handed over to torturers (Matt. 18:23-34).

Why do we refuse to forgive? Are we controlling those who have hurt us by punishing them and thereby protecting ourselves from further harm? Not really. When we try to manipulate others through unforgiveness, they rebel. Our enemies suffer minimally from our unforgiveness, compared with the damage we do to ourselves The verdict we pass on others is passed on us (Matt. 7:2). Unforgiveness is a fatal poison which cuts us off from forgiveness (Matt 6:12,15), healing, prayer (Mark 11:24,25), and worship (Matt. 5:23,24).

Then, when we are separated from these graces, we are handed over to torturers (Matt. 18:34). These torturers are not people, but worse. They are such experiences as fear, depression, frustration, anxiety, self-hatred, and loneliness. As these and other torturers work us over, we deteriorate to a level of existence that is characterized by fruitless, compulsive, escapist activities. We must forgive others and ourselves or destroy ourselves. Yet it is humanly impossible to forgive. "To err is human, to forgive is divine. " Only God can forgive. To forgive another is more miraculous than healing someone in the most advanced stages of cancer. But God will do this miracle for us.

However, many times we do not ask for the miracle of forgiveness because we are deceived by the devil into thinking we have already forgiven another. Many people help deceive themselves by re-defining forgiveness to be the control of hostile feelings instead of a merciful expression of love. Forgiveness is not a feeling but a decision to accept God's grace to let go of holding other's sins against them. Forgiveness is to extend loving mercy to those who have offended us. The Lord calls us to forgive affectionately, generously, and mercifully, as the father of the prodigal son did (Luke 15:20). The following diagnostic questions can help us know if we've deceived ourselves about forgiving others:

*Am I conscious that God gave me the grace to forgive and that I did not do it myself? If you are not aware that God did it, He may not have.

* Can I picture myself embracing the other person (see Luke 15:20)?

* Do I appreciate and practice personal confession before God? If we are forgiving graciously and lovingly, we are being forgiven in this way. This would attract us to the act of confession as outlined in 1 John 1:9.

While a "no" answer to one of these questions doesn't mean we've not forgiven, it's a bad sign. The essence of forgiveness by God's standards is the giving of mercy. Mercy means to treat others better than they deserve. When we extend mercy to those who have offended us, we kiss prodigal sons, give presents to offenders, and have special celebrations in honor of our enemies These people don't deserve this, and that is what mercy is all about. We don't deserve the redemptive death of God's Son, the shedding of His blood, and eternal happiness. However, He has given them to us because of His mercy."

Copied from a worship folder of
Woodland Park Baptist Church,
Chattanooga, Tenn.
John Meadoris senior pastor of the church.