“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice; And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” . . . “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and by this many become defiled” (Ephesians 4:31-32; Hebrews 12:15).
Poor judgments ingested but not digested breeds bitterness. This condition leads to spiritual constipation. These seeds are evil and usually found in the heart of the UNFORGIVER. Bitterness is the brackish backwater of life that is never understood much less released. It is the unanswered question, the unhealed wound, and the hurt in the mind that will not go away. It is life committed to torment and calls to mind the Old Persian proverb; “When you go to bury your enemy, dig another grave for yourself – both of you will be buried.” Show me a bitter spirit and I will show you an UNFORGIVING HEART!
Forgiveness is to “grant free pardon to the offender and to cease to feel resentment against him.” Forgiveness is not a strident law- it is pure grace, a power and trait that is unnatural to man.
Someone says, “Just forgive and forget it.” Sorry, but we are not made that way. When pardon is granted and all resentment is removed, there is every reason to remember and no reason to forget. You want to grow up and be a sweet old man? Then take a simple vow, “God, I forgive ANYTHING that anyone may do against me in the future – I forgive it ALL RIGHT NOW“.
Jesus said, “But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). In Matthew 18, Jesus gives a parable about an unforgiving servant. He owed his master millions, but because of his pleading his Master forgave him all that debt. He found a fellow servant that owed him less than a hundred dollars, and threw him into prison because he could not pay the debt. When the Master heard of it, he recalled that servant and said, “O thou wicked servant and he threw him in prison till he should pay all his debt . . . So likewise shall my Heavenly Father do also unto you if you from your heart forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:29-35).
Why is it true that the unforgiver is unforgiven? NOTHING TAKES THE PLACE OF FORGIVENESS! “Let’s forget it.” “I don’t want to forget it” “Why don’t you move to another city?” “I don’t want to move to another city!” “Then move to another congregation.” “I don’t want to move to another congregation!” “Let’s go get re-baptized.” “I don’t want to get re-baptized!” “Let’s just bury the hatchet.” (Normally you mean between the shoulder blades) “I don’t want to bury the hatchet!” “Well, just what is it that you want?” “I want you to forgive me”.
If forgiveness is so easy, why don’t we just do it? Why do we try every other human idea, every man made substitute, every foolish facsimile – since nothing takes the place of forgiveness and it is such a simple and easy matter to accomplish, why don’t we just do it?
Forgiveness is not an option – it is an absolute necessity. God’s grace will so heal your heart, that you, in turn may offer this healing balm to the one who wounded you.
Forgiveness is a matter of the Spirit and takes place in the heart. Paul writes, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2). Notice the one who is to do the restoring. Is it pastors, or deacons or ministers? They may well be included in the process only if they are “SPIRITUAL“. You may hire an infidel to build your building, or an agnostic to wire it or plumb it. But here is a work that is not for hire! Forgiveness is spiritual and takes place in the heart.
In 1980 I had triple by-pass surgery. The Head surgeon came by the night before. I was in a ‘holding ward’ with two other patients. He stood at the door and called my name. I could tell from his searching eyes that he didn’t even know me. My heart sank!
“O, there you are Mr. Exum, he said. And then he began to recite my credits. You are not a smoker, not obese, and your blood pressure is excellent. Get a good night’s sleep and I’ll see you early in the morning.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. I was afraid. He didn’t pull up a chair for a reassuring talk. He just stood at the door. I wanted him to sit, hold my hand, look me in the eye and to get the feeling he cared especially for me. He’s the one to operate on my heart. The heart is sacred. You don’t write poems about your liver. As he turned to leave, I called to him. He pulled up a chair and sat down. I told him how I felt. He asked my forgiveness.
In the morning, with God’s help and his expertise, he made my heart well again. The heart is sacred. Keep it pure and it will last a long time.