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If we are praying for our sister or brother we will not be able to sin against them, but when we are sinning against them we can never truly pray for them.
Unforgiveness is a problem we all have to deal with at some point in your Christian walks.
When we do not forgive we end up having bitterness, slander, a critical spirit and hold things against others. We end up putting ourselves in a prison of bondage privately in our own hearts. Sadly, many believers find themselves in such a place of private hurt and resentment against others. Of course when asked they will deny such bad things but alone in their homes and minds they know they have these great hurts that they have not given fully to God. As you read through this article, allow the Holy Spirit of God to break your heart, see Jesus again and release others fully and find freedom in your heart.
The inexcusable in you
C. S. Lewis writes about the problem of forgiveness:
“You must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough. But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
“This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”1
Bitterness, a poison
We are told in the Scriptures to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Bitterness is something we feel never will happen to us.
We go through life opening our hearts to many people, seeking friendship in this life. But when we least expect it someone hurts us, or circumstances themselves come to a place where we allow bitterness to come into our hearts towards even God himself.
Feeling angry and disappointed over how we have been treated or how circumstances have treated us produce great bitterness in our being. This feeling we hold in is suppressed in our hearts and not see at first in our daily life. But it starts to seep out its poison slowly in our words (James 3:7), and mind, we start to judge everyone, say cynical and hard comments towards others. Usually this hurt is directed towards a person or specific situation. Anything that would remind the hurt person of this situation will result in their hurt to come out in words that damage and tear down others.
In the verse before this passage the Apostle Paul speaks of not grieving the Holy Spirit as believers in Jesus. He shares that Disciples must "get rid" of all of these hurt feelings that result in resentment, anger, frustration, hurtful words towards other persons.
If we allow any unforgiveness as believers to rest in our hearts it will grow like a cancer and create bitterness and then our inner man is defiled with all these sins of anger. The Apostle pleads with fellow believers to forgive "each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32). That is the only solution and way to solve the problem.
Getting even, hurting someone else or an organization will not result in releasing you from the personal prison of bitterness you are in. Forgiveness is the key that will open that door so that you may walk in the freedom Christ has called you in and then you will be able to help release others who even caused the hurt in your own life.
A critical spirit
The dictionary defines criticism as: “an act of criticizing; to judge as a critic; to find fault; to blame or condemn.” Scriptures are clear on this subject that we are not to tear down or accuse others in the body of Christ. Paul the Apostle rarely speaks of anyone by name and when he does it is either because a believer has departed fully from the faith, or it is a false idol worshipper who is opposing the gospel greatly.
Such warnings are few and far between in the New Testament. A principles Paul lived with was "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Corinthians 11:31). In simple wording, he looked to his own problems 1000 times before looking at others and in the end though he was in no place to ever cast judgment on a believers heart or motives.
People speak of having a critical spirit, where one is obsessively interested in tearing down others who are false, have problems, or just are not the same as them. Such a critical spirit looks towards what is bad always and is not able to see the good. Such people are complainers and always seem to have a reason to speak against something.
What causes believers to become critical? Believers become negative through at times sin they have committed (Romans 2:1) or unforgivenness towards another (Hebrews 12:15). Another reason is the individual is not thinking heavenly minded but is being more influenced by the worlds thinking (Romans 12:2).
Insecurity and jealously can be a cause of someone having a critical spirit towards others.
Focusing on men and not the Lord can cause one to be critical of every flaw of others. Satan is also the “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10) and sadly can work through or use believers to accomplish his work of tearing down. Those who are habitual fault-finders, constant critics of people and situations usually are sick in the body and full of tension and stress.
The Scriptural solution to any of us even struggling in this area is clear: "stop passing judgment on one another" and that we can start to love others in the body of Christ, uplifiting them, edifying them and building them up. We have the world the flesh and the devil putting stumbling blocks before us the last thing we need is brethren to do this to us also.
“Whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbour, and casts no slur on others.” (Psalm 15:3) The psalmist David speaks of the type of person who can dwell near the Lord. When we speak against someone's reputation this is never a light thing. One who God dwells near should have absolutely no slander in his lips or in the heart. We all judge others or form opinions in our minds of others, we must be quick to cast down thoughts that are not based on our personal experience of the individual.
When we hear stories or third-party stories of another brother and sister in the Lord and then cast a judgment we err. It is even worse when we take part in slandering someone when we have never known or spoken with the actual individual being blamed. Even if a brother or sister has erred in a significant way this is not our job or right to slander them, rather we should seek to pray for them and show the love of God. If we are praying for our sister or brother we will not be able to sin against them, but when we are sinning against them we can never truly pray for them.
Polycarp bishop of Smyrna says,
"Not quickly crediting an evil report against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin. If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God."
Though we know the theology that God is ever-present seeing all things, we usually act as if God cannot see. When we talk about others, ruin someone's name, write words that accuse we do not realize all of these words are in the sight of God. Our Lord even said that every single small word we utter or write will be held for account in the last day (Matthew 12:36).
In the passage we are looking at the last statement is of significance. In Hebrew the words for "casts no slur" essentially gives us a word picture of someone picking up an object to throw at someone. Here we have words being spoken to others in reproach and scorn. The word "slur" in hebrew gives the sense of something that is despised. One who is a child of God cannot carry such hate in their heart no matter even if evil was done to them.
When we speak about others in such ways we end up hurting ourselves spiritually and the Lord does not dwell near us. When we judge others like this we end up judging our Lord who became sin for that individual. We end up speaking against him as a despised thing.
All humans are made in the image of God and when we sin against them we in a sense sin against God. David in his confession of sin against other humans realized that the sin was against God (Psalm 51:4). Let us do not wrong to our neighbour even to those who have hurt us.
Keeping no record of wrongs
The Apostle Paul shares in chapter 13 of his letter to the Church in Corinth what paints for us a beautiful picture of Christ. He speaks of the love of Jesus, that dwells in believers, and how that Lord manifests itself. If you replaced the word "love" and "it" for your name you have a very convicting picture of how we should be by the grace of God.
“[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Firstly, love or Christ, does not dishonour others. It is easy to say and do things to others at time that bring disgrace to them or shame. We can represent someone in a bad light, look at their bad characteristics, even seek to defame someone's name before others. We are not to judge others in the body of Christ (Romans 14:4) but to advocate for them and seek forgiveness and grace towards them.
Secondly, love or Christ, is not self-seeking. Even Jesus the very Son of God was a servant who sought others good and not his own. We are by default aimed to promote ourselves, help ourselves and in all we do be geared towards selfishness. Saying no to self is a constant decision we must make.
Thirdly, love or Christ, is not easily angered. We read that the fruit of the Spirit of God is Self-Control (Galatians 5:22). But it does not say "control" we are all prone to desire situations,circumstances and even people to be in control or work towards how we think things should be. Such thinking will produce frustration as life will never work exactly as we want and we need to find appreciation and joy in the good and bad of life. When frustration builds to a place it becomes anger as we feel we can control things with anger. Jesus never controlled others but allowed people to have a free choice and shared with them the truth of the kingdom of God.
Lastly, love or Christ, keeps no record of wrongs. We all will be sinned against in this life. You can count on it, people are not perfect and especially in friendships, marriage or the body of Christ we open up ourselves more deeply to others and therefore can be hurt deeper. At times a hurt given by a friend will not be healed quickly but we must never hold a grudge and record of these wrongs. God himself forgives those who bring sin to him and do not remember it. One brother shared that when we pull up a hidden sin from someone's past we have to reach our hand through the blood of Christ to re-expose the sin that God himself has forgiven.
Father in Heaven, help me to release others, forgive others. Take away bitterness, a critical spirit, slander and holding things against others. As I look to Christ the living God today I choose to forgive all others because you have forgiven me by your precious blood. Amen.