This past Sunday we were studying the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday School at our church. What always strikes me when I study that passage is the importance that forgiving others has on our own forgiveness. I have written about this before but I think it is important to remember that occasionally and look to see if we are harboring any unforgiveness in our lives.
It is very easy to let the feeling of being sinned against by someone become a thorn in our side. It would seem that it would be so easy to just forgive them and take that thorn out, but it isn’t. I believe a lot of times it is our own selfishness that keeps us from truly forgiving someone.
What factors are there that may be causing us to have problems forgiving someone else?
Is it possible that we might like the power of holding onto a sin against us so we can use it to get our way at a later time? It is a powerful thing to use someone’s past failure or weakness to elevate our own position in a relationship. Power and selfishness seem to go hand in hand.
Do we ever use another’s mistake, failure, or sin as a way to pump up our own feeling of superiority? Do we fall into the trap of saying to ourselves, “Well, at least I am not as bad as they are.” We can use holding unforgiveness as a way to compare ourselves to others. It is easy to think that maybe we are more mature, more righteous, or maybe even a better Christian by holding onto that nugget of unforgiveness.
Do we ever use unforgiveness as a way to feel like the other person owes us? Do we use someone’s wrongs against us a way of demanding treatment from them that is totally self-focused? It is easy to use someone’s sins against us as a way of keeping score. “I deserve this because you did that.”
Probably one of the easiest of these to fall victim to is when we hold onto something from the past and wait until there is another sin against us to bring the issue back up. Maybe we didn’t think we were holding on to the mistake as unforgiveness, but then in an instant we felt hurt again so everything is fair game we think. It is easy to pile on past mistakes when we are angry and use it to further injure the one who has done something against us.
It is easy to play the judge when we feel sinned against. It is also easy to try to determine the consequences of someone’s sins against us. Maybe we don’t think they have felt enough guilt for their actions. We have been hurt, so why don’t we just take control and make sure they understand how bad they really are.
Unforgiveness and selfishness is a bad road to go down. When we let the two get together and take things out of God’s hands we get into a situation where we make decisions based on what we want, what we think we need, and by what we feel. It quickly stops looking anything like God’s design for love and grace.
Paul Tripp describes unforgiveness like this, “It’s also scarily blind. We are so focused on the failures of others that we are blind to ourselves. We forget how often we fail, how much sin mars everything we do, and how desperately we need the grace that we are daily given but unwilling to offer to others. This way of living turns the people in our lives into our adversaries and turns the locations where we live into a war zone.”
So, what things are you holding on to? Is it something someone said to you? Is it something that someone did that didn’t go your way? In your marriage are you holding on to any unforgiveness of your spouse? Did they handle a situation in your family in a way you did not like? Did they get frustrated about something and hurt your feelings in the process?
Holding on to someone else’s sin against you is just unhealthy. Letting that thorn stay firmly planted in your side will only cause you extended pain. If you let it stay it will eventually become infected and cause problems in other areas of your life. It may not only harm the relationship with the one you have unforgiveness toward, but it could be that the hurt you have carries over to how you treat others around you.
In the Lord’s Prayer it says, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” I know that I fail Christ many times and very often. I desperately need his forgiveness for my transgressions. If letting go of someone’s sin against me allows me to be forgiven, then it is a must that I try to remove the selfish motives from my heart that want to harbor unforgiveness.