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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Maybe Some People Just Don't Know They Need to Forgive

Hebrews 12:15 (ESV)
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

I have always thought of the lack of forgiveness as a volitional act. I believed that those who lacked forgiveness did so because they refused to forgive. I now wonder if some people are unaware of their unforgiveness.

Several years ago I asked God to reveal to me anyone I hadn't forgiven. I had been challenged to do so but expected that there was no one whom I needed to forgive. However, I began to remember the pain that others had caused me in my past. Some of these events I didn't even know existed in my memory. Some of these events were in my childhood before I became a believer.  I realized that I had never forgiven those who had caused me pain and was secretly carrying animosity toward them. 

I knew I needed to forgive these people. So, I forgave each person whether or not I could remember their names as each painful memory surfaces. It took weeks until my buried memories ceased to come out. I felt cleansed in the end.

Recently I spoke with a woman with whom I felt had a hatred that she was unaware of. Her negative attitudes toward others as she described her own suspicions of their motives and actions made me think that she had hurts deep within which had never been forgiven. I honestly believe that she has forgiven everyone she has known. Yet, I know she still holds her father's remarriage after her mother died against him. I know that she has had some disappointments with her family which have hurt her deeply. I also know that her response of her father and the rest of the family is an expression of loving them deeply.

Can you love someone without forgiving that person? Yes, I believe you can. But the love you have may mask the lack of forgiveness you are also holding against that person. The lack of forgiveness may be a defense mechanism to keep you from being so trusting that you are deeply hurt again. Thus, I believe she has a root of bitterness which has grown slowly but is missing the grace of God.

It seems I learn more about Hebrews 12: 15 each time I read it. The person who lacks forgiveness also fails to realize his or her own forgiveness. The grace of God is not the prevalent characteristic. A cynicism and animosity of events and people characterizes the carrier of this root. Therefore, this root causes trouble because, while the person may not actively cause trouble, he or she does not do anything to stop the trouble either. Trouble prevails when the grace of God is absent. And many are defiled because of this trouble.

Not too long ago a new family joined our church who had not attended church anywhere for decades. They had been attenders for a couple of years before finally joining the church. The father told me that he had been in another church as a young man. He had been given a position of leadership just before many in the church had done hateful things to the pastor. He said that his former church no longer existed.

I surmised that this is the reason he and his family continued to come without making a commitment to join. They had been hurt before and didn't want to repeat the experience. I wonder if the members of the former church had some root of bitterness which caused them to take hateful actions. This man and his family were part of the collateral damage. 

Many times people can't truly tell me why they feel a dislike for others. (They know better than use the word hatred.) Could it be that there are painful events in their past? Could it be that they have never forgiven those who caused the pain?

I know this. My own attitude toward others changed dramatically after I asked God to reveal those whom I had never forgiven. Now, I forgive people more freely than ever before. The grace of God is all around me and enables me to do so.

I encourage anyone reading this blog to ask God to bring up any event or person for which forgiveness has not been truly given. I am not talking introspection. Just ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of what you haven't forgiven. Don't try to prompt Him and see what happens. I believe it will be as cleansing as it was for me.


Anthony Chia said...

I understand this topic this way:

The "lack forgiveness" person, meaning one who forgives not, a root of bitterness would spring up in him, and this bitterness would cause trouble, and it defiles. Such bitterness in a person who forgives not, it is (a) bad for the person himself; for example, the person could get sick, may develop a dysfunctional, even hateful, disposition which tend to rob one of peace and joy; and (b) bad for other people coming into contact with the person, because of his dysfunctional disposition from the bitterness root from his unwilling to forgive.

From here, we can appreciate why we do say, "you are to forgive so and so, for your own sake!" or we tell the one unwilling to forgive that he does not necessarily hurt the person who did the wrong to him, but hurts himself.

Having said so, still, can your non-rendering forgiveness hurts the person who did wrong to you? The answer is yes, and when he has realised he has been wrong, and want your forgiveness, and when you do not release the forgiveness, God holds it against you (Matt 18:32-35). Our unforgiveness (towards another) is viewed very seriously by God, as wickedness, even! Many people just brush away, this text, after the Lord's Prayer, as recorded in the Book of Matthew, but I don't; Matt 6:15 - "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Other texts on God's expectation of us to forgive (by grace) included these: Col 3:13 & Eph 4:32.

Even if one argues that salvation forgiveness is not at stake, our relationship with God suffers. Do not forget our relationship with God is first restored from God's forgiveness. Going against the desires of God is sin, and it is clear what God's desire is, for the matter of us to forgive; and sin separates us from God. Needless to say, when our fellowship with God suffers, our living right suffers; not only it is bad for us, it is bad for those interacting with us, sad to say, even our loved ones are negatively impacted, you realizing it or not. Don't you want the grace and blessing of God flowing to you, and from you, to others? Work at this one obstacle, your unforgiveness.

What this means is that, either way, you lose, if you do not forgive.

There is one thing I want to mention, and hope pastor and counsellor will stress: to forgive and to trust again, are separate matters. We are to give understanding to the one we counseled, that to forgive a person (of a wrong or sin done! and so, a past wrong) is a must, but it does not necessarily mean we have promised to, and must trust the person that he will not repeat his wrongdoing or offence, especially when violence and abuse are involved. The person (the wrongdoer) needs to earn your trust all over again. Giving this understanding, fulfills the commandment of God to forgive, and empowers the victim to forgive, without putting himself or herself at risk of being violated again.

Finally, there is also a difference between "to forgive", which is a must, and "to release the forgiveness", which involves when we release the forgiveness which we have done, from and in our heart (we must first forgive, from and in our heart, before we can release the forgiveness. When we cannot release the forgiveness to the person, it means we have not forgiven, from and in our heart). There is one scenario that we can forgive, but we can never release the forgiveness to the person, and it is when the person has passed away. Remember, unforgiveness does negatively impact ourselves, and so, even if the person who wronged you is dead, you are still to forgive him (from and in your heart), for your own sake, and the sake of others who interact or will interact with you (not for the dead man's sake).

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

Steve Finnell said...


Did God give mankind manifold options to have their sins forgiven?

The birth of the church of Christ was on the Day of Pentecost. What occurred on that day?

1.The apostle Peter preached Jesus, His death, His burial, and His resurrection. (Acts 2:22-35)
2. Peter stated God had made Jesus both Lord and Christ and that they were responsible for Jesus being crucified.(Acts 2:36)
3. The crowd asked Peter and the rest of the apostles what they should do. (Acts 2:37)

What was Peter's answer? Keep in mind these men had already believed that Jesus was Savior, Lord, and the Christ.

Did Peter give them this list of choices?

1. Did Peter say, "Repent and say the sinners prayer and you will have your sins forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?"
2. Did Peter say, "You do not have to do anything thing to be saved, you were saved the very moment you believed, your sins are forgiven?"
3. Did Peter say, "Repent and be baptized because your sins have been forgiven?"
4. Did Peter say, "You were added to the body of Christ the minute you believed, however, in order to join the local church you must be baptized in water?"
5. Did Peter say, "Repent and be baptized as an example to the community?"
6. Did Peter say,"It is written that men are saved by faith only, water baptism is a good work?"
7. Did Peter say, "Water baptism is just an act of obedience, and it has nothing to do with forgiveness of your sins?"
8. Did Peter say, "The thief on cross was not baptized and he was saved; therefore you can have your sins forgiven without being baptized?"
9. Did Peter say, "You have to be baptized in order join a denominational church, however, you can get into heaven by faith only?"
10. WHAT DID PETER SAY? Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.(NASB)

The apostle Peter was not offering multiple ways to have sins forgiven.

Faith: John 3:16
Repentance: Acts 2:38
Confession: Romans 10:9-10
Water Baptism: Acts 2:38