Many people are hurting, angry, bearing grudges, keeping malice, backbiting, walking in bitterness, et cetera because they have been offended by someone. They have made statements like, “I will never forgive”, “Over my dead body”, etc. The dangers and consequences of this kind of statements is the subject of this sermon.
In his teaching about prayer Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour made a very serious but profound statement which everyone who wants to be free from the dangers of unforgiveness needs to take note of. He said in Matthew 6:14-15, (King James Version) “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” God is not begging or pleading with us to forgive. It is a command. The question then is If God does not forgive us, how will our prayers be answered and worse still, how do we make it to heaven? These and some other questions about forgiveness that our Lord Jesus addressed are what we hope to look at in this sermon.
Forgiveness means to pardon someone for wrong done or cancel a debt owed. Forgiveness is a character trait of God. To the Lord our God belongs mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him (Daniel 9:9 New King James Version). From the time of Adam, man has lived in rebellion to the Almighty God. Yet because of His mercies, God has always pardoned our sin. 1 John 1:8-9 says, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Divine, like human, forgiveness must always precede the fulfillment of the condition of repentance of heart. The ultimate, being the price that Jesus paid at Calvary, when he was nailed to the cross not for anything He did, but for our sins. Yet He cried out, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). As a result of the sin of Adam we were all born into sin. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19). Jesus Christ took our place and was punished for our sins. Therefore, when sin demands justice, mercy says no.
When we become born again, we have the nature of God and the ability to forgive. In the world, people hardly forgive. It is natural for them to seek revenge. The Psalmist said in Psalm 130:3-4, If You, Lord, should mark iniquities. O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You that You may be feared. Jesus Christ sets no limit to the extent of forgiveness. He admits that there is no wrong so gross or so often repeated that it is beyond forgiveness as we see in Luke 17:4-5, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent’, you shall forgive him." He also addressed this issue in His response to Peter’s question as to how many times will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? (Matthew 18:21-22).
Furthermore, in Matthew 18:15, Jesus said the offended person is to go even farther to seek to bring the wrongdoer to repentance. “If your bother sins against you, go and show him his fault, between both of you...” He is to carry out his pursuit to the point of making every reasonable effort to win the wrongdoer, with the objective of gaining him for the Kingdom. This is the extent to which God goes to win a soul, by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sin to reconcile us back to Him. Praise the Lord!
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 18:23-35, about an unforgiving servant to drive home the point that, a refusal to forgive those who have offended you, no matter how grievous or painful what they have done, attracts God’s refusal to forgive you. In the story, a servant who was forgiven for owing his master a lot of money refused to forgive another servant who owed him a small sum of money. His master called him a wicked servant and then handed him to the tormentors. Many people are being tormented because they have refused to forgive those who offended them. Many are even sick of undetected diseases because of the root of bitterness; some still bear grudges towards dead relatives and enemies. Hebrews 12:14-15 says, Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.
Let us examine some of the dangers of unforgiveness so that we can avoid them:
UNFORGIVENESS AND HEAVEN - Matthew 6:14-15 says, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (NIV) Refusal to forgive means God will not forgive such a person. This is very dangerous for us believers, because if God does not forgive our sin because of refusal to make peace and forgive our offenders, then how do we make it to heaven? Heaven is too precious to lose because of temporary emotional dissatisfaction and hurt. Hebrews 12:14 says, Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.
UNFORGIVENESS AND PRAYER – Mark 11:25-26 says, "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." When you stand to pray, first make sure you forgive those who have offended you; otherwise your prayers will not be answered. We can see that there are so many people, who are making noise saying they are praying. Why? They are walking in unforgiveness and as a result their prayer does not go beyond the roof. Why waste precious time praying when your prayers cannot be answered because you have not fulfilled God’s condition.
UNFORGIVENESS AND OFFERING - Matt 5:23-24 says, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” The condition for God to accept our offering is an acceptable heart. God is more interested in our life than in our offerings. According to this passage, before you bring your offerings to God make sure you have settled all issues of offense and reconciled; otherwise that offering is just a waste. I see many believers struggle financially even though they give, pay their tithe fully, are working in the house of God. But, because they refused to forgive, all their offerings are as if they are putting it in a basket with holes in it. No returns on their seed sown because their offerings have being rejected.
UNFORGIVENESS AND HEALTH - Matt 18:34-35, says, “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Many people are being tormented today because of unforgiveness. Some are sick of undetected diseases because they bear grudges and keep malice. Why die before your time? It is time to let go and let God have His way and heal you. A man sick of palsy was brought to Jesus. Jesus looking at him, said the unusual, “…son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Matthew 9:2. The forgiveness of his sins preceded his healing. There was a testimony of a woman who was sick and scheduled by his doctor for an operation; the Holy Spirit revealed to the doctor that this woman has refused to forgive someone. She was confronted by her doctor on this issue. She owned up, repented and forgave those who offended her. Immediately she was healed miraculously without the operation. Praise the Lord!
UNFORGIVENESS AS A SEED - Galatians 6:7-8; Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Unforgiveness is a seed. When it is sown, it will bear fruits. Usually, the harvest of any seed is more than the seed sown. Spiritual death is lurking around the lives of those who harbour unforgiveness. Many cases of suicide are as a result of unforgiveness. Some people refuse to forgive themselves after God has forgiven them. Get rid of it today as tomorrow may be too late. To obey God is better than sacrifice.
UNFORGIVENESS AND THE GRACE OF GOD - Hebrews 12:14-16 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. Refusal to forgive can lead such individual to fall short of the grace of God. When one falls short of God’s grace it means that backsliding has set in. This can be very dangerous. Jealousy leads to malice then hatred and finally to revenge. A classical example is Cain with Abel in Genesis 4:1-9.
Having examined the dangers of unforgiveness, let us discuss some steps to making forgiveness easy:
Pray by discussing the issue with God and let Him know how you feel about it. Tell God how hurting you are about the situation and ask Him for the grace to forgive. Then take a positive step as led by the Spirit of God- Matthew 18:15-17.
Learn to apologise and say sorry to the offended party.
Decide to obey God. To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22. Obedience is the key that opens the door of God’s blessings to flow into our lives.
Make excuses for the action of the offenders like Jesus did in Luke 23:34, “Father forgive them for they know what they do.” Let God be the judge and fight for you. Psalm 94:1.
Check your life and analyze your past sins. Galatians 6:1 says, Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
See how God’s mercy has rescued you from the judgement of God - when sin demands justice, the mercy of God says no. The case of the woman who was brought by offenders to Jesus to be stoned for her adulterous act in John 8:1-11 is a classic example. The conscience of the offenders judged them. Many people try to crucify others, but they have done worse things for which God forgave them. Ps 130:3-4, If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.
Show love and compassion just as God forgave us for Christ's sake. Ask the Holy Spirit for help to truly forgive and obey Ephesians 4:31-32, Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Love covers a multitude of sin, 1 Peter 4:8. The prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 was forgiven by his father when he repented and returned. You too can be forgiven and decorated with blessings when you repent.