Are You There, God? Day 5- Spirit of Unforgiveness
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25, ESV)
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14, ESV)
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13, ESV)
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24, ESV)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16, ESV)
The final hindrance we will discuss in this short series is a spirit of unforgiveness, or the unwillingness to forgive someone who has hurt you. I’ve been known (to my shame) to hold a grudge, and maybe you have too. At times, we can feel deep anger and bitterness toward someone who has betrayed us or harmed someone we love. It’s easy to allow these feelings to fester, and yet when we refuse to forgive, we damage ourselves. Not only that, but we cause our prayers to be hindered by our refusal to forgive.
Why do you think God expects us to approach Him with no grudges on file against another? It seems a lot to ask of us, we may think, when someone has been unfaithful, taken the life of a loved one, stolen valuable possessions from us, or sexually assaulted us. The offender may never apologize or show remorse, further fueling our anger and bitter feelings. It hurts to be hurt—especially by those we deeply love and care about. But we must stop for a minute and consider our rap sheet in the face of a holy God.
We’ve often spoken of this in church, but suppose your sin was exposed for all to see—every single one of them: the awful things you’ve said to people, the lies you’ve told that hurt people, the things you’ve taken that weren’t yours, the terrible thoughts in your heart toward others, sexual sins you think no one will ever discover, and a million other dirty words and actions that would embarrass you should they be known publicly. We sometimes use phrases like “they are good people,” but God says there is not one of us that is good. We are all sinful and wicked in our hearts, evidenced by the need for Jesus’ rescue mission to the world and the cross of Calvary.
When we think of our sinfulness, and the forgiveness Jesus offers us, we find grace beyond our understanding. He forgives us again and again and again. We don’t deserve His forgiveness, but His very nature is one that is loving, compassionate and merciful. I think of the parable Jesus told about the man who owed a large sum of money which he could not repay. He was thrown into prison but was granted release and forgiveness from that debt, only to then turn around and beat up someone who owed him much less. That’s a picture of us when we refuse to forgive others.
If we want our prayers to be heard and answered, we need to remove any unforgiving spirit within us. If you have a grudge against someone, go and make things right. Forgive people who didn’t say “I’m sorry.” Forgive the person who has made your life miserable for decades. Forgive your spouse who walked away. Forgive the drunk driver that took the innocent life of your loved one. Is any of this easy? No! But with the forgiveness we have received from Jesus we can pour the same over those who have offended or hurt us. We release them, and ourselves, from the bitterness we’ve been holding onto, and when we do so, we remove the hindrance that stood in the way of our prayers. God, give us the courage and the strength to let go of any offense we have been holding onto—we need You in this. Amen!