Relationship Weeds Day 3: Unforgiving Spirit
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)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, ESV)
Does anyone in particular come to mind when you think of a “good” grudge-holder? This person can hold onto an offense for decades, refusing to forgive or erase the wrong from their memory bank. They bristle when they hear the name of the person who wronged them, and usually are happy to share the dirt on them all over again. Maybe that’s you—and this hits too close to home. Or maybe it’s your spouse, and you’ve spent a long time hurting over their refusal to forgive. The bottom line is this: the spirit of unforgiveness should never, ever characterize the life of a believer.
Maybe we should first look at why this is especially true for believers. Forgiveness is the principle on which our own salvation is based, and is only possible because of God’s willingness to forgive our sin—and all sin is against God. There isn’t one particular sin that would make God withhold forgiveness from us. When He shed His blood on the cross, He paid the price for every single sin. All He asks of us is to simply believe this and come to Him. We don’t deserve His forgiveness, but His grace is extended to us because of His great love for us. His very nature is to forgive those who ask it of Him. And the truth is this: we like His grace and are happy to accept His forgiveness. He has never turned us down.
Many times in the Bible we read that because we are forgiven, we must forgive others. It doesn’t matter if we feel it is justified or not—Scripture is clear. Forgiveness is required in all circumstances, even when restoration of the relationship isn’t possible. A great example of this would be a habitual adulterer who refuses to change their ways. The wounded spouse must forgive, based on God’s Word, but is not required to return to a relationship that is abusive. There are situations where forgiveness, while difficult in our human flesh, is required for us to move forward spiritually, physically and emotionally.
But what about the little day-to-day stuff? The little irritations that annoy us and get under our skin? How do we handle those? Am I quick to say, “I’m sorry,” and am I quick to forgive when it’s asked of me? How about this: am I quick to forgive even when it isn’t asked of me? This is where God’s love within us enables us to have a spirit of forgiveness in our relationships—always willing to show grace to those who need it.
Oftentimes we become irritable and cranky when we are short on sleep, short on food, or our schedule is overcrowded. Demands on our attention can make us snappy and moody, and while this may be normal for us humans, it’s an area we need to check as believers. We aren’t justified, no matter what our condition, in showing rude, snippy behavior. If we were to keep this in check, we would need a lot less grace from our spouse.
I want to encourage you to begin thinking of your behavior within your relationships, especially with a significant other or a spouse. Do you forgive them? Do you show them the same grace you would like to receive from them? If not, recognize that God sees this as sin in our lives, and He longs to see change in us. Holding grudges or having a snappy attitude are not traits people should see in us. If they see those things, they are not seeing Jesus—and that, dear friend, should be all the motivation we need to pluck this ugly weed of unforgiveness from our lives.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12, ESV)