When He died…I did not exist…
except in His mind.
I was just another unborn sinner with a lifetime of future offenses.
But I was known.
He knew the lost and broken soul.
And He was ready to forgive my sins before I had done any of them…
on the morning I first drew breath…
before I felt the dark stains in my soul.
His is an ancient readiness to forgive.
Because He loves me…
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
What would you do if you knew your children were attending a school located over a toxic waste site? For parents of a group of middle school students in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, this question is causing great anxiety and debate. In fact, the school board voted to move the students to other schools within the next two weeks.
Listed as one of the worst sites in the state, the contaminated groundwater under the school migrated there from a manufacturer’s lot across the street. Although no one knows how long ago the groundwater was polluted — perhaps as far back as the 1800s — the current owner of the property usually bears responsibility for managing the cleanup.
Toxic waste released generations ago continues to disrupt lives today. Unforgiveness is a spiritual form of toxic waste that works in a similar manner. Not only does it damage the person who will not forgive, but it will often “migrate” into the lives of others. The results can be catastrophic over multiple generations.
While working this week on a message from Matthew 6:12 (“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”), I listed several devastating impacts of holding on to unforgiveness. There are many more than what I’m sharing below. I’m not using the list in the message, but I thought it was worth capturing and sharing. If you are struggling in this area, please don’t stop until you have completely cancelled the “debts” of the person who hurt you.
Six toxic results when you refuse to forgive someone…
- You are ruining your prayer life. If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. Psalm 66:18
- You are wounding the Spirit of God. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
- You are exposing yourself to the devil’s influence. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11
- You are damaging your future reward in heaven. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:14-15
- You are influencing others to adopt your attitude. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15
- You are inviting God’s correction into your life. “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” Hebrews 12:5-6
- You are crippling your usefulness to God. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21
His forgiveness of those who come to Him is full and complete. Our forgiveness of those who hurt us can be nothing less…
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Galatians 6:1-2 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
During a high school football game a play was called that I could not remember. As a lineman I knew my job was to drive my opponent out of the way for the ball carrier — but which way? When the ball was put in motion, I hesitated — then drove my opponent into the path of the man running the ball! Oops!
Well, Saturday mornings were special times for the team: we reviewed the game film from the night before! When my play came up, the coach caught my hesitation on film, played it back a couple of times, sighed heavily and in front of the team said, “Pucik, if you’re going to make a mistake, do it 100%!”
Not very encouraging, but it was a lesson I never forgot.
Paul points out for us that in church we will encounter believers who have blown it spiritually — 100% messed up. They already feel bad — beaten up on the inside by the sin they have committed. What can we do for them?
- Line my life up with the Spirit — Paul describes the helping brother as “spiritual” – a person deeply involved with the Spirit of God. It is impossible to provide support and encouragement when my own life is marked by sin’s control.
- Be sure my purpose is to “restore” — Paul uses a medical term for “setting a broken bone or dislocated joint”. Don’t beat up the beaten soul!
- Cloak my words and manner with “gentleness” — approach with care and with not intent to cause harm.
Paul describes this process as bearing “one another’s burdens” — loads that we cannot carry alone. When we have blown it, how very much we need encouragement and gracious words. Most of the erring souls we deal with are knee-deep in self-condemnation and a consciousness of personal failure.
Are we going to add to the burden today? Or make it lighter with a word of encouragement and simple redirection?
Ephesians 4:2 …with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love…
Colossians 3:13 …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.
A grandmother celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage. “On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,” she said.
- Undeserved – I really offended God. Forgiveness was granted to me when I deserved punishment. He could have “chewed” me out and been absolutely right to do it –but He didn’t do it to me — and I shouldn’t do it to a brother or sister who sets me off.
- Unrestricted – He included each and every offense in His forgiveness of me. He never says “that’s it, I’ve had enough! I’ve had all I can stand!”
- Unending – He never changes His resolve to forgive. I am not forgiven, then later reminded of all the things He has overlooked. He will not give forgiveness then retrieve it at some time in the future.