A woman recently attended one of my extended events where I preached the Gospel. Her faith for her community was low and she was not a happy person. I began to preach about being forgiven but also forgiving others. The Holy Spirit began to touch her deeply. She came forward for prayer and shared that she had not been in contact with her family for seven years because they had hurt her. I felt compelled to hold her in my arms and the Lord began to minister love to her pain. Tears flowed freely down her face and she went away under the presence of God. The next day, I noticed she was not in attendance despite that she had been at all the other sessions.
When she arrived later in the day, she had a skip in her step and her face was glowing. She smiled at me and said, “Jesus wouldn’t let me come back until I forgave my brothers and sisters and reconciled with them. Sorry I am late! I needed forgiveness, but I wasn’t giving it away. Wow, I feel different.”
Two weeks later I received an update that her brothers and sisters we going to church and seeking Jesus. Her faith and joy are touching her community and she has fresh faith to see God move in the lives around her.
Unforgiveness can hinder belief in God and impact a person’s ability to stand firm with an undivided heart and fulfill his or her destiny. But what does unforgiveness have to do with hearing God’s voice, obeying Him, and being close to Him? Let’s unpack this idea and see if it’s possible to find some answers to these questions.
What is Unforgiveness?
Unforgiveness occurs when a person has been hurt and hasn’t forgiven the person who hurt them. Sometimes when we are hurt, we can become bitter or attached to the pain and remember it regularly. Ultimately, unforgiveness is a love issue. Loving people should reflect how God loves. Paul described God’s love best in his first letter to the Corinthians:
Love is patient, love is kind . . . it keeps no record of wrongs. Love never fails.— 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, 8, NIV
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.— 1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV
I remember one day when the Lord reminded me of His declaration that He is love (1 John 4:8). I began to replace the word “love” with “God” in 1 Corinthians 13 and view it over myself and others. First Corinthians 13 reveals how God feels about His people, and what that kind of love looks like. God is patient with His children, and kind. But notice what 1 Corinthians 13:5 says: Love keeps no record of wrongs. If God is love, then He keeps no record of wrongs. In fact, He says that He blots out our transgressions for His own sake. Forgetting is a gift He gives Himself, not just us (Is. 45:25). It allows Him to restore relationship with us as if nothing had happened.
To “keep a record of wrong” means harboring hurt against another or remembering the hurt in light of the deed. The world demands payment for sin; this is an antichrist spirit in which one person accuses another person in his or her heart and assigns a sentence or condemnation against the person. Ultimately, keeping a record of wrong divides one’s heart and loyalty.
This means that to walk in step with the Lord, followers of Jesus must also keep no record of wrongs that others have committed against them, since God keeps no record of wrongs done to Him against those He loves.
Satan, on the other hand, stands before the Lord accusing the brethren day and night demanding God’s punishment. Punishment is different than discipline. Discipline involves teaching, learning, and growing. Good fathers teach; God the Father is a loving teacher. Punishment, however, involves torment. It does not involve learning, but only the weight of a sentence that is inescapable.
But the love of God forgives the debt of the wrong one at His expense. Sometimes people hurt others more than they could ever repay. The same is true of God and His children. All have sinned more than they could ever repay. When part of a person’s heart is loyal to demanding that the other person pay them back for hurt they have caused, he or she displays a love of the world and an antichrist spirit. However, forgiving others as Christ forgave displays loyalty to the heart of God and demonstrates His heart to the one they are forgiving. A divided heart, on the other hand, is loyal to receiving forgiveness, but disloyal to giving it away. It is loyal to demanding payment.
Does Forgiveness Affect Faith?
Jesus connected faith with forgiving others and keeping one’s heart in step with His. Kenneth Hagin once said, “Faith works by love; if we are not walking in love our faith is not working.” Where there is a lack of love for God, there will be a lack of faith. Consider Jesus’ words in Mark 11:
Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.— Mark 11:25, NASB
Jesus tied faith with forgiveness in another passage, when He instructed His disciples:
It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, “I repent,” forgive him.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.”— Luke 17:1–6, NASB
To better understand what Jesus was teaching in this passage, it’s important to first understand that He is love. The Ten Commandments are about love, and though they may appear restrictive—don’t steal, don’t covet, don’t lie—they are actually protective. Stealing, coveting, and lying hurts others and may cause a person to remain in a state of unforgiveness because their heart has been wounded. If they have trouble forgiving, it affects their faith. That is when it really becomes a problem for God because faith is the basis by which a person can be in relationship with Him and hear His voice.
Jesus also taught when a brother sins against another believer, we are to rebuke the one who sinned. However, most people bear the sin quietly and try to forgive quietly. I am convinced this is where bitterness creeps in. It takes courage to confront hurt and sin, but it needs to be done. Minimizing sin says, “It’s not a big deal,” and thus, it minimizes the person’s worth who was sinned against. When a person doesn’t feel valuable, they might become bitter and resentful. To clear up this challenge, John the apostle instructed us to bring sin out into the open:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.— 1 John 1:7, NASB
Bringing another’s sin to the light also brings to the light your hurt so that the other person can see it and acknowledge it. The blood of Jesus will cleanse the other person if they repent. However, if the offending party does not repent, you have still walked in the light, acknowledged your value, and set a boundary. If you have sinned against another, however, repent and tell the person you are sorry. They may tell you how you hurt them, which will be uncomfortable; however, they need to bring to the light their pain as well so that it doesn’t evolve into unforgiveness on their end of the relationship, which could lead to additional faith issues between them and the Lord.
Doing so will make it possible for each party to dwell with Jesus in the light. Satan attacks what is hidden, but he cannot lay hold of anything in the light (John 1:5). This will re-establish relationship by putting it back on good ground.
Reflect with the Holy Spirit
- Is there anyone that I need to walk in the light with?
- Have I demanded payment from anyone? Have I given forgiveness freely as You have? Remind me.
- Forgetting is a gift we give ourselves and others. How do I feel about that?
- Am I willing to let You unite my heart and help me forgive?
This teaching devotional is part of a series based on Tyrelle Smith's book: From Double-Minded To Destiny. Each week we will publish more on how you can remove doubts, insecurities and fulfill God's plan for your life in a greater way.