“I can’t forgive them.” “What they did to me is unforgivable.” “I won’t ever speak to them again.” ” I can’t forget how much they hurt me.” What do all these statements have in common? They show an individual who has a bitter spirit.
Bitterness has destroyed many people because it enslaves them to the object of their bitterness. They have no freedom to enjoy their walk with God and others. A bitter person can infect their family, their workplace or even their church with their attitude. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” (Hebrews 12:15)
God has not only given us a cure for bitterness, but He has also modeled this cure. This cure is called forgiveness. The word forgiveness means “to send away”. The idea is that we throw the bitter attitude out of our lives; never to retrieve it again. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” (Ephesians 4:31)
God gives us three reasons to cast out bitterness and embrace forgiveness.
1. Christ has forgiven us. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32) No matter what anybody has done to us, it is nothing compared to all of our sinful offenses towards God.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is a great illustration of the above truth. The landowner forgives his servant an enormous debt; yet this forgiven debtor is unwilling to forgive his follow servant a very small debt. (Matthew 18:21-35) How can we talk about God’s mercy and not share that mercy with others?
2. Christ commands us to forgive others. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.“(Colossians 3:13) A bitter spirit is a disobedient spirit. When we forgive a person in our heart, we are walking in obedience to Christ.
3. Christ is our example of demonstrating forgiveness. When Christ was being mocked upon the cross, He didn’t respond with anger and bitterness. He called out to His Father: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) When we forgive those who have hurt us, we are acting like our Savior. These people didn’t ask Christ to forgive them, but yet Christ poured out His forgiveness towards them.
Forgiveness is difficult for us because we think that the offended party is “let off the hook”. In reality, we are let off the hook. We are now free to live our lives without being controlled by our bitterness. God shows us the following blessings of extending forgiveness to others.
- We have a testimony before others. “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)
- We show God’s love towards others. Charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7)
- We will have a joyful heart. “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
- We will enjoy true Christian fellowship. “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;” (2 Corinthians 2:10)
Forgiveness is our choice. We can continue to feel hurt and embittered, or we can choose forgiveness. The offending party may never ask for forgiveness, but we can forgive them in our heart. Many persons have lived a miserable life because they chose not to forgive someone. Is your bitterness worth it?
“Dear Lord, you felt the pain of rejection, hatred, misunderstanding and ridicule; yet you forgave. Help me, to forgive those who have hurt me. My bitter spirit has not only hurt me, but those around me. I have lost the joy in my life. Lord, in my heart I now forgive _____________. Thank you for your forgiveness towards me when I don’t deserve it. From now on, help me to exercise love towards even those who have hurt me. Amen.”
NOTE: This is the sixth post in the series “Moving Beyond”. Please check out the other posts in this series.