Forgiveness is an extremely hard thing for us human beings to do. When people do evil to us, we have a natural tendency to become resentful of those people, and undoing that resentfulness can be quite a task. And the greater the evil is that was done to us and/or the greater frequency of the offence, the more difficult it is to let go of the resentment, bitterness and anger. But there are several reasons why we should let go of the bitterness in our hearts, regardless of whether our offender actually apologizes to us or not. I will list several reasons why we need to let go of our resentment/bitterness.
1: YOUR RESENTFULNESS WON’T CHANGE THE PAST.
What’s done is done. We cannot go back and undo what happened in the past. Cause and effect cannot be reversed and as far I know, no one has invented the time machine yet. The evil that has been done to you is done. All you can do now is move on.
2: CLINGING TO THE PAST WILL PREVENT YOU FROM ENJOYING THE PRESENT.
if you’re bent on holding grudges, you may become so wrapped up in past wrongs that you can’t enjoy the present. You may feel helpless, or like life is meaningless. You could jeopardize future relationships. “If you don’t get past some of the wounds of the past, you tend to bring them into everything else you pursue,” says psychotherapist Frank Luskin, director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project and author of Forgive for Good. He’s spent more than 20 years studying forgiveness. “If you’ve been dumped or treated badly, and you don’t really heal, you’re going to be less trusting, more defensive, and more quarrelsome with the next guy—or even the next five—because you still carry visceral pain. When we can’t move past that, we stay a prisoner of our worst experiences.” And feeling that way, constantly on edge, resentful, and maybe even frightened, certainly isn’t healthy.
3: UNFORGIVENESS PREVENTS GOD FROM FORGIVING YOU.
The Bible teaches that God will forgive us of our sins if we turn to Him in repentance (Isaiah 55:7) and if we confess our sins to Him and ask Him to forgive us (1 John 1:9). No matter how bad our sins are, if we are truly remorseful over what we’ve done and if we truly have a desire to change our ways and start living a life of righteousness, God will forgive us. God forgives everybody who throws themselves on the mercy of Christ and who believes that they are saved for one reason: two thousand years ago the human version of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) was crushed by the Father (Isaiah 53:10). He died on the cross for our sins, paid our fine in full (1 John 2:2). Now you have to repent and trust in Him alone for salvation (Mark 1:15) . The minute you do that, God will grant you the gift of eternal life immediately (John 3:16), forgiving every sin, past present and future (Colossians 1:14, Acts 10:43, 1 John 1:9) and you will strive to do his will every day by the empowering of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17, Hebrews 12:8-9). This issue will be settled once and for all and you’ll never again have to wonder if you’re doing enough good works for your sins to be forgiven (Isaiah 64:6).
However, The Bible teaches that if we do not forgive others of their trespasses against us, God will not forgive our sins when we stand before Him on the day of judgment.
Jesus said “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:14-15
In Matthew 18, Peter (one of Jesus’ 12 disciples) comes to Jesus and asks Him how many times we should forgive someone (Matthew 18:21). Peter suggests 7 times. That sounds pretty generous, doesn’t it? 7 times! If someone does the same offence to you 7 times in a row, Peter thinks we should forgive that person 7 times in a row. However, Jesus doesn’t agree with Peter. He says we should forgive someone who does wrong by us “as many as seventy times seven times” (Matthew 18:22). Jesus then told the following parable which has been dubbed “The Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant”.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” – Matthew 18:23-35
This is pretty startling, isn’t it? It’s plain to see the literal meaning of the metaphor Jesus is using here. The King represents God. The servants represent human beings. The talents/denarii debt represents our sins before God which He will punish us for. The servant pleading with the king represents a person throwing himself at the mercy of God asking Him to forgive his sin. The king (God) forgives that person his debt. But then the servant comes into contact with someone who is indebted to him. And this servant whom hours ago was forgiven by the king, refuses to forgive his debtor. When the king finds out about his servant’s lack of mercy, he is furious! He no longer forgives his servant for the debt that he owed the king. Why? Because this servant did not show that same kind of mercy toward his fellow servant. The king handed his servant over to “the torturers” until he could repay his debt in full. Now, “the torturers” don’t really represent any people. I think “the torturers” merely represents Gehenna (a.k.a Hell). But it’s pretty clear what Jesus is saying here. If you don’t forgive others of their sins against you, God won’t forgive your sins against Him. And we know that any unforgiven sin means that you will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8), to experience “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9). You must be forgiven of your sins in order to enter into Heaven. That which is impure cannot enter the presence of a holy God. Forgive, so that you can be forgiven!
“There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” – James 2:13
“’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” – Ephesians 4:26
4: BITTERNESS CAN TURN INTO HATRED, AND HATRED CANCELS OUT ETERNAL LIFE.
Anger, resentfulness, bitterness and hatred are often closely related to one another. Anger can turn into resentfulness, resentfulness produces bitterness and bitterness can produce hatred. Aside from the fact that God does not forgive those who do not forgive others, The Bible teaches that hatred is an evil characteristic of a human heart. The Apostle John uses some pretty damning language about people who have hatred in their hearts. He says that anyone has hatred in their hearts is a murderer at heart and that no murderer has eternal life in him. He also says that those who are walking in hatred are walking in darkness.
“If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.” -1 John 2:9-11
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” – 1 John 3:14-15
“If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?” – 1 John 4:20
Obviously, if you carry hatred in your heart, you are not saved. If you have hatred in your heart, you’re a murderer at heart (1 John 3:14-15), you’re walking in darkness (1 John 2:9-11), and you’re a liar when you tell God that you love Him (1 John 4:20).
In order to get saved, you must cast away all hatred from your heart. You cannot this on your own, I understand. But God will do it for you when you come to Him. That is part of the sanctification. We’re not saved by works, we’re saved by grace through faith, not of ourselves, but of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). God will erase the hatred you have in your heart and replace it with His love. I point this out because I’ve preached this message before and have been accused of advocating a works based doctrine. I’m not. Unforgiveness and hatred are merely sins we need to repent from just like any other sin. When you come to God to ask Him for forgiveness, ask Him to help you forgive others. God knows what’s in your heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Deuteronomy 31:21, Psalm 44:21, Psalm 139:2, Proverbs 15:11) and He therefore knows whether you truly desire to let go of your resentment. I’m convinced that God will forgive you if He sees that your resolve is to let go of your hatred and unforgiveness. Through sanctification, He will help you love people just as He Himself loves them.
So, no, I don’t think this goes into a works based doctrine at all. I think refuses to forgive those who are comfortable in their unforgiveness and don’t even have a desire to forgive. If you’re at least TRYING to forgive, I’m convinced God will forgive you even though your riddance of resentfulness may not be quite achieved yet. It’s not a works based teaching because it’s God who’s the one will rid you of your hatred, not you. It’s God who will compel your heart to empty itself of resentfulness, not you. You obviously can’t do it on your own. I know I couldn’t. But through Christ, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13)
Moreover, forgiveness is like a muscle. The more you do it, the more you’ll be able to do it. And according to some pastors I’ve heard preach, if you DO loving and kind acts towards those whom you despise, overtime you will tend to grow fond of them. Your actions can shape how you feel.
OTHER RELEVANT BIBLE PASSAGES
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:38-44
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you only love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:27-36
“For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” – James 1:20
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” – Hebrews 12:15