I didn’t realize how much I had allowed the chains of unforgiveness to weave themselves so intricately around my body until I was reminded of the symptoms one Sunday morning as I sat and listened to the sermon.
“Someone does something to hurt you and you forgive them. But what happens at the very thought of the issue? Can you see them the way God sees them or are you still offended by what they have done to you?”
“Whoa, what’s that?”
I suddenly felt the tiring weight of “unforgiveness chains” pulling me down as a name came rushing to the front of my mind.
For the next few seconds I sat in my chair flooded by waves of images in my head of ways that I had been offended by someone. I had to admit right then and there that I had carefully constructed the “unforgivenss chain” I wore around my neck. I added bitterness link after anger link at the mere thought or mention of the person’s name.
“But you don’t know what this person does and gets away with!”
From the pulpit I heard “Unforgiveness is like lighting yourself on fire and hoping the other person dies of smoke inhalation.”
I nervously shifted in my seat and finally there was illumination. I had allowed Satan to hold me in bondage. His weapon of choice? Unforgiveness, bitterness, and anger. As the pastor continued to preach I thought about how the “unforgiveness chain” originally got its start. I was highly offended by someone’s treatment of me and others. I said something and asked for forgiveness, but the words were not heartfelt. I really didn’t mean what I said at all; I was merely going through the motions. Satan had his first link and was able to quickly add others by keeping those offenses at the forefront of my mind. At the time, I was fighting a losing battle because I had forgiven in my own strength. Needless to say, I was going nowhere fast. The more this person got away with, the more bitter I became adding another link to the unforgiveness chain. I was even allowed myself to be offended at something that didn’t even pertain to me in most cases. With each thought I saw clearly another link in the long chain currently holding me captive. At this point I knew exactly what I needed to do to be free.
As I continued to listen to the pastor, I was reminded that if I was going to win a fight against Satan, I had to use God’s weapons. I can’t do anything on my own, but by the power of the Holy Spirit I can forgive. I can conquer unforgiveness by choosing to forgive. Before I left the church that morning I chose to forgive. I had allowed the chains of unforgiveness to weigh me down for far too long. Now as I move forward, I will keep my eyes focused clearly on Christ and pray – not just for me but for the other person too.
I encourage you today to forgive as Christ forgave. If He can forgive us for what sent Him to the cross (our sin), then we can forgive someone for what they’ve done to us.
Matthew 18: 32 – 35 (NCV) – The Unforgiving Servant
2 Corinthians 2: 7-11 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
Why is forgiving someone…hard to do? When someone does something hurtful to you, don’t you feel yourself wanting them to feel the hurt and pain you feel and then pay dearly for it? Let me take it one step further; has someone in your church, perhaps a church leader, ever done something to hurt you?
In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul is talking to the Corinthians about forgiving brothers and sisters in Christ who have been disciplined in the church and repented of their actions. Satan would love nothing better than to cause division in the church and strife among the body of Christ. If he can get in and cause division in a church by growing the root of unforgiveness, he will. I have seen first-hand how Satan can grow an unforgiving root in a church. The devastation, division and destruction it brings is heart breaking.
I am not going to pretend that forgiveness is a piece of cake – it’s hard when someone has wronged you or someone you care about. But forgiving is something that must be done if we are going to remain obedient to the Word. Matthew 6:14 – 15 tells us “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.”
We also see in 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NCV) that “Love does not count up wrongs that have been done.” It is our responsibility as Christians to let go!
“Impossible!” you say?
Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37)
Here is what has helped me forgive when everything in me wants to rub the hurt and pain in the face of the person who needs to be forgiven. I start by committing to lay the burden down at the foot of the cross. Try to picture this image in your mind. See yourself approaching the cross with the “unforgiveness issue” in hand. Kneel there and tell Christ you are leaving the issue with Him, rise in confidence knowing you’ve laid your burden down, and then walk away.