There are many things that can cause us to stumble in the Christian life: inability to walk in the Spirit, refusal to get into the Word of God, living with unconfessed sins and a lack of faith, to name a few. These can all be detrimental to our daily walk. However, over the years I have I come to the conclusion that there is one thing that impedes spiritual growth and success in the Christian life perhaps more than anything. I believe that to be an unforgiving spirit.
Sadly, I have seen numerous Christians hang on to a personal offense from someone else and never learn or choose to let go of that offense. The result is very evident. At minimum it quenches the Spirit’s power in their life. But all too often it leads to a subtle bitterness which presents a major roadblock to the Holy Spirit’s empowerment.
The undeniable truth is that forgiveness is a two-way street. For the child of God, to be forgiven makes it incumbent upon us to forgive. Ask almost anyone the name of someone who has done him wrong, and you will not need to wait long for an answer! All of us have been sinned against.
But honesty forces us to admit that we have sometimes inflicted the pain. We have all sinned against God and against other people. In our most transparent moment, we know that we have wronged others, usually those closest to us.
There are few believers who do not appreciate the depth of forgiveness in Christ that one enjoys. Yet, many believers find it extremely difficult to forgive others. Such is the pernicious cancer of the soul that torpedoes many believers’ spiritual lives. A failure to forgive or seek forgiveness can well be described as a kind of spiritual anorexia. The tragedy of anorexia is that a person somehow becomes convinced that food, the very thing that is God’s provision for health, is something dangerous, to be avoided. Even as her body wastes away, she clings to the notion that eating is bad for her. It is a delusion that ultimately leads to death.
Similarly, we can choose to not forgive or seek forgiveness because we are convinced that this is a way to punish someone else or to protect ourselves. But it, too, is a delusion that kills. It kills relationships, families, friendships, and churches. It is significant to note that researchers have discovered a direct link between forgiveness and physical and emotional health.
Equally, such unforgiveness not only kills our relationships, but it also kills our fellowship with God and leaves us in the clutches of bitterness. Bitterness is both toxic and imprisoning.
The antidote for the spiritual anorexic is that “great forgiveness (from God) inspires great love (for our Savor).” Great love for the Savor frees us to forgive because we knows and trust that He would not ask us to do that which is unhealthy for us. Truly, forgiveness is the gateway to freedom.
May God help us to discover the freedom that comes from being great forgivers…and break the chain of remembered hurts that bind us to the past.