I paid for this article in tears.
In the most difficult season of our lives, I was in a brutal and broken place feeling as if I’d been shot in the soul.
One Sunday morning, we gathered in the living room to have church as a family. With a quivering voice and bowed head, I invited the Holy Spirit to give me words to love and lead my family.
Hebrews says that just one root of bitterness in one human heart is enough to take down a whole orchard, and I wanted to make sure that with the shovel of forgiveness we dug that root up from our little family orchard. I am happy to report that what I shared helped my family, and I am praying that it will help you, too.
Forgiving Glorifies God
Forgiveness is essential to the Christian faith. Unless we are forgiven by God through Jesus Christ, we have no joyful relationship with God in this life or the eternal life to come. Unless we are forgiven by others and forgive those with whom we journey in this life, we have no joyful relationships with others.
When we see Jesus forgiving people, He is reflecting the forgiving Father heart of God. God is glorified because His forgiving heart is reflected in Jesus Christ for others to see. We do the same when we pick up our cross to follow Him and forgive others.
Forgiving Blesses You
God is so good and gracious that when we forgive we not only glorify Him, but we also bless ourselves. The Bible repeatedly tells us not to be self-consumed to the point that we ignore God’s will and the welfare of others; however, it does tell us to be self-concerned.
For this reason, Jesus says in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul tells us in Philippians 2:4, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT).
God wants us to take care of both ourselves and others.
Unforgiveness is the path to unwellness. God wants you healthy and moving forward, not sick and sliding backward.
Forgiving Blesses Others
If you are unforgiving, you may not like that word much. Instead, you may use words such as bitter, hurt, broken, wounded, damaged or disappointed in a way that presents you as a victim.
I want to be tender in approaching a painful place in your soul but also ask you to consider if you have become selfish because of your suffering. Sometimes when you are hurting you become so aware of your own problems and pain that you neglect the trials and troubles of others.
God hands each of us a shovel of forgiveness to dig up the root of bitterness. You need to accept God’s forgiveness of your sin and then forgive those who have sinned against you. Otherwise the bitter root will choke out all the healthy relationships in your life.
Forgiving Defeats the Demonic
Satan and demons are never forgiven for anything, and they in turn never forgive anyone else for anything. Forgiveness is divine. Unforgiveness is demonic. To refuse to forgive is to open oneself to the realm of demonic activity. One bitter believer empowered by the demonic realm can unleash hell in the church.
The Holy Spirit revealed this to me during a Bible study I conducted. This insight helped me, and I pray it helps you, too.
Forgiving is Grace to Your Offender
It is often easier to receive God’s gracious forgiveness than it is to give grace and forgive others. Jesus asks us to love our enemies as He loved us when we were His enemies.
Forgiven people are supposed to be forgiving people. Grace is a gift for you to enjoy, but also for you to share. God gave you grace even though you were His enemy, and He asks you to give His grace to your enemies.
Forgiving is a Witness to Others
It is particularly damaging to the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ when bitter Christians fight in front of non-Christians because everyone loses and only Satan wins.
One of the most inspiring forgiveness stories involved a man named Stephen. Bitter, jealous, demonic religious leaders came to murder him. In Acts 7:59–60, Stephen “called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’” We then read in Acts 8:1, “And Saul approved of his execution.”
This Saul would later ask Jesus to forgive his sin and go on to be a preacher of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ — the apostle Paul! He watched Stephen die and heard Stephen pray, and God answered that prayer and forgave that sin.
Forgiving Opens You to the Holy Spirit
Apart from Jesus Christ, the most remarkable act of forgiveness in all of Scripture might be the story of Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery, but he forgave them.
How did he do that? The same way that Jesus did and you can. By the power of the Holy Spirit.
This article is adapted from Mark Driscoll’s book, “Spirit-Filled Jesus: Live by His Power,” coming October 16 from Charisma House.