“… bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Col. 3:13 (KJV)
This week as I scanned my mail, I observed an email celebrating the Lenten season. When I looked to see who had sent it, I noticed its source was a past associate, with whom, I had become very “disenchanted.” Translation? They had committed an action that I felt was unkind and I had not yet found it in my heart to forgiven them. With this personal story as a backdrop, I’d like to focus this week’s Lenten season study on practicing forgiveness.
In the Lord’s Prayer, receiving forgiveness from God is joined to forgiveness of others. (Matt. 6:12; Luke 11:4) Jesus used several parables to illustrate the need to pursue forgiveness. In the parable of the unmerciful servant, He makes the point that human beings are obligated to forgive because God has forgiven them. (Matt. 18:23-35) In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus contrasts the “forgiving” heart of the father in the story with the “unforgiving” older son. It is a study in the stubborn refusal to forgive that is characterized by hardness, a demand for revenge, and arrogant refusal to celebrate. The older son’s self-justified indignation and smugness “over being right” was causing just as much pain and separation between himself and his father as was caused by his younger brother. Unforgiveness often causes as much pain as the original offence. (Sound familiar?) Let’s go back to my email.
I opened the email (which I usually delete) and oh my, was I blessed by what I received. It was as follows:
The only authentic fasting is fasting that includes a spiritual attack against our own sin. If there is an unresolved pocket of sin in our life, God is going to come to us and say, “The fast I choose is for that sin to be starved to death.” From A Hunger for God by John Piper
My heart was “doubly convicted”—my “unresolved pocket of sin” had been exposed AND my fasting this Lenten season needed to be more authentic. God did speak to me and say, “Eileen, the fast I choose for you is that you starve to death the sin of unforgiveness.” The refusal to forgive indicates a rebellious, stubborn heart that has “not drunk deeply of the water of grace and mercy at the well of God’s forgiveness” (Luke 7:47). Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:32).
Unforgiveness has been described as poison to the person who holds it in their heart. Some people carry unforgiveness around like a banner of entitlement—“I’ve been wronged and it’s my right not to forgive!” While forgiveness is not easy, God has provided His Spirit within us to show us how we can be freed from the death grip of unforgiveness. Ask Him to set you free.
This week you will have an opportunity to learn more about and practice solitude. Read the short article, What the Bible says about Solitude as part of your “Journey of THE CROSS”.
Then practice solitude by inviting the Holy Spirit to help you with an unforgiveness you may be holding in your heart. Give yourself completely to God to help you knowing that “God loves you just as you are but also loves you too much to let you stay as you are”.