Unforgiveness   

Unforgiveness is something that can really hold us back from escaping the corruption of sin and living for God.  Unforgiveness comes in many forms, such as bitterness, hatred, malice, holding grudges and resentment.  It can actually block God's forgiveness of our sin and provides a foothold for the devil to influence our lives.  Additionally, unforgiveness can plant a “root of bitterness” in us that leads to various damaging results (e.g. ruins the fruit of the Holy Spirit, stunts spiritual growth, contributes to physical illness).  Like acid can destroy the vessel that holds it, so can unforgiveness destroy us when we harbor it. 

Here are some key scriptures addressing our need to forgive:

Forgiving others

God expects us to forgive others just as he has forgiven us.  God, who is perfect, sacrificed his Son Jesus so that our sin penalty (death) would be paid.  Because of our faith in Christ (and his sacrifice), God forgives us from our sin.  If we then refuse to forgive another person for an offense, we are dishonoring the forgiveness that God gave us.   God will hold us accountable for this as Jesus illustrated in the sobering parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35).  

Another important aspect of unforgiveness is that it is a form of pride.  When we’ve been wronged by someone, we have a natural desire to see justice done.  When we withhold forgiveness, we're basically passing judgment on the person. God instructs us to trust in him for the execution of justice. The scripture says, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19 NKJV).  As God's followers, we must submit our desire for justice to him and trust it in his hand.   

This can be very hard to do, especially if someone has spitefully mistreated us or someone we love.  Forgiving someone is not condoning what they have done, but rather, it is laying the case before God’s throne and asking him to deal with it according to his will.  We have to remember that God saw the evil that was done.  He knows how deeply we’ve been hurt.  If we can come to the place where we’re willing to forgive the person through Christ’s love, we will be able to move forward and leave the burden of justice in his capable hands.   

Are you ready to forgive?  Not everyone reading this page will be ready to forgive the person(s) who wronged them.  It may take time to get that place of being willing to forgive.  If this is your situation, I encourage you to ask God to give you the desire and ability to forgive "from the heart" as Jesus mentioned in Matthew 18:35 NIV.   Here is an example prayer:  "Lord God, I recognize my sin of unforgiveness.  Please help me get to the point of being willing to forgive those who have wronged me.  Please give me the desire and ability to forgive.  Thank you, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen." 

Prayer to forgive others:  Don't pray this prayer until you are ready to truly forgive the people who wronged you. God commands us to forgive "from the heart."

“Heavenly Father, you are holy and righteous.  You are perfect in justice.  I confess that I have not forgiven as you have commanded me to.   Through Jesus Christ, I now forgive these people: _________________ (list names and what they did to you).   I confess my pride and judgment of those people.  Please forgive me Lord and cleanse me from my sin.  Please help me to thoroughly entrust these people and the wrongs they caused me into your hands.  I pray that your will be done in my life and in their lives.  Please help me to no longer think on those wrongs , but instead to focus my thoughts on you.  I invite you, Lord, into any painful memories I have concerning what was done.  Please heal any wounds I received and help me to have your perspective on what happened.  (Take time now to pray silently and receive from the Lord) Thank you, Father!   In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.”

Forgiving God

When bad things happen to us, especially when we're young and vulnerable, we might be tempted to blame God for not protecting us from the evil that was done.  The devil loves to taunt the victims with thoughts like "How could a loving God allow this to happen to you?" Unfortunately, many people agree with the devil on that point and turn away from God.  It can be difficult to provide a satisfying explanation to victims of why the evil was "allowed" to occur.  

When considering such difficult situations, we can look to the cross for confirmation that God is truly a loving God.  When we consider the magnitude of suffering that Jesus endured on our behalf, we need not doubt his love for us.  Even so, we may also need the Lord to give us a deeper understanding of his love, especially relating to the situations where we suffered.  Though we may not understand why the bad things happened, the first step in recovery is to release any unforgiveness we have toward God. 

Here is an example prayer:  "Heavenly Father, I recognize my sin of unforgiveness toward you regarding __________ (list the situation).  I know that you are perfectly just and holy, although I may not understand why things happened as they did.  I forgive you, Father for any offense that I concluded came from you.  Please heal my wounds and deepen my understanding of your love.  I invite you to give me your perspective concerning what happened.  (take time now in silent prayer to wait on the Lord)  I receive your healing and forgiveness, Lord. Thank you! In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."

Forgiving ourselves

When we've made bad mistakes in life, it can be tempting to unmercifully hold ourselves responsible.  This too is a way of trying to act like God as judge, inflicting the punishment of condemnation on ourselves.  Granted, we may have been responsible for what happened, but that doesn't mean we have to condemn ourselves for the rest of our lives.  Just as God has forgiven us for our sin, we need to forgive ourselves for our sin as well.  When we release ourselves from this self-judgment, we will free ourselves to become the new person that God intends us to be. 

Here is an example prayer:  "Heavenly Father, I confess that I have unmercifully held myself in judgment concerning _________________ (list the situation).  I forgive myself for my role in that situation.  Please cleanse me of all self-condemnation by the blood of Jesus and restore in me a healthy self-esteem.  Thank you, Lord for forgiving me and empowering me to live for you as a new creation.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."

Having forgiven others, God and ourselves, we must now walk forward and resist the temptations to revisit the unforgiveness.  This will likely require us to exercise authority over thoughts and persistently make them obedient to Jesus. (see Control Thoughts)

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