“…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)
To forgive is not easy. It’s antithesis, unforgiveness, is usually entwined with the emotions we felt (or still feel) during the original offense–anger, shame, or fear. Regardless, it is still an expectation of God that we forgive (Matt. 6:14-15).
In the parable of the unmerciful servant, Jesus makes the point that human beings are obligated to forgive because God has forgiven them (Matt. 18:23-35). Jesus contrasts the “forgiving” heart of the father in the prodigal son 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 arrogance. Unforgiveness often causes as much pain as the original offense. 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.
It has been said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The damaging effect of unforgiveness is seen not only in the emotional and physical health of people but also in their broken relationship with others and God. Forgiveness is an act of the will (versus what we feel) and as believers, we are to forgive as an act of love and obedience to the Lord (John 14:15).
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). 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.