11. Can I Be “Unforgiven?”

20 12 2010

(I have been blogging on the book “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere. Here are my thoughts on chapter 11)

How seriously do we take Jesus when He says, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). I am sitting here thinking about this, because it is the theme of this chapter: forgiveness and the “consequences of refusing to let go of offense” (129).

Jesus says,

“Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37)

And in instructing His disciples on prayer, He includes,

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

The author says, “The way we forgive, release and restore another person is the way we will be forgiven” (131). This is serious stuff. If I take Jesus at His word, it means there is nothing casual about this process; there is no wiggle room. If I don’t forgive, willfully do not forgive, neither will forgiveness be offered to me. Period.

As I search my own heart I wonder if there are people I haven’t truly forgiven (and the author points out, that person can be you; yourself). When a person’s name comes up and I feel discomfort, is it just that, or is that an indication of unforgiveness?

The author walks through the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 and three lessons we can take from it (138):

1. When the servant refused to forgive the lesser debt, after he had been forgiven a giant one, he is turned over to torture: agony of body or mind. People who are unwilling to forgive are affected physically and emotionally by bitterness. Jesus said, “if you have anything against anyone, forgive…” (Matthew 5:24). We have to forgive; we have to want to do this in a very serious way.

2. The unforgiving servant had to pay the original unpayable debt: “It is like our being required to pay the debt Jesus paid at Calvary. We would lose our salvation” (139). This is a controversial statement (the idea of losing our salvation) and the author backs it up by lifting up 2 Peter 2:20-21 where people had

“escaped sin…through salvation in Jesus Christ. However, they were again entangled by sin (which could be unforgiveness) and overcome by it. To be overcome meant they did not return to the Lord and repent of their willful sin. Peter stated that turning from righteousness was worse than never knowing at at all…” (139)

Jude 12 talks about people in the church who were twice dead: “to be twice dead means you were once dead without Christ, then you were made alive by receiving Him, then you died again by departing from His ways permanently” (139).

Something to think about.

3. God calls us as believers to forgive from the heart — no matter how great the hurt or offense:

“Jesus was very specific, making sure we understood this parable. In almost every parable Jesus did not offer the interpretation unless His disciples asked for it. In this case, however, He wanted no question about the severity of judgment for those who refused to forgive” (140).

The author points out that unforgiveness is usually seen as a “lesser sin” and we tolerate it far more than other more visible ones. We tolerate it, we sympathize with it even. How often do we point people back to those they have not forgiven, saying, “Before you do one more thing, you need to get before God and forgive this person.” Forgive. Completely; thoroughly in a way that affects how you treat and speak of and be a brother/sister to that person; mean it.

Many will justify themselves in the end (remember the sheep and the goats; the ones who said “Lord, Lord” and yet Jesus doesn’t recognize them?) and all along the way we can do the same: justify unforgiveness.

Talking about the hardness of our hearts is a difficult message. Talking about Jesus saying, “If you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven,” makes one tremble, hey? But maybe we ought to tremble. When the Bible talks about the “fear of the Lord” I think I ought to feel afraid when I am choosing to walk outside of what He asks.

I realize as I am writing all this that David’s prayer is the one prayer I need to pray in earnest, regularly: “search me and know me. See if there is any wickedness in me.” Can’t unforgiveness walk around disguised as something else? Can’t it settle in, but feel like something different? This is where we truly need to invite — seriously and with intentionality — invite the Holy Spirit to reveal all that is within us. And we have to desire to live, forgiving as we go along, and not just in that fake-christiany kind of way where we say it, but nurse an entirely different attitude internally.

Can I simply forgive through my own choice, my own strength? If I take one thought away from this chapter, it is the conclusion that I don’t think I can. What I can make a choice about is moving towards forgiveness, choosing it, working hard to keep pursuing that mindset; but the actual work of forgiving, the kind that goes deep and is complete, I think I need help from the Holy Spirit to accomplish completely.

I try to live forgiving, but unforgiveness comes most naturally. And that is, why…that is why I need the supernatural touch of Jesus Christ to remove every last seed of unforgiveness that has found a place to hide in me.

— Teresa Klassen

P.S. Even as I wrote that last sentence I realized how easy it is for me as a Christ-follower to say, “Amen” to things I agree with. But I think the Christian walk has a lot more blood, sweat  and tears to it — physical applications — than I am often willing to commit myself to…

 

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