I can’t shake some ideas when they come to me. This word keeps popping into my head, and I’ve finally decided it’s time to examine it and discover why it’s pressing down on my heart. As you might imagine, “unforgiven” is NOT the word I would choose to meditate about during this Christmas season when we hear “Peace on Earth” and goodwill to men about twenty times a day.
I’m not talking about “the lost”
No. I didn’t choose “unforgiven”; it chose me. And, no, I’m not talking about “the lost”, as we say in the church. I’m talking about the saved who wear the name of Christ. Many of us are going through life without even realizing we’re unforgiven because we wear the name of Christ and have received God’s forgiveness. When I say “us”, I’m talking about us as individuals.
I am first talking about myself. I know I offend people, but I won’t apologize for being offensive if that offense is due to the fact that I wear the name of Christ. Some people just have a spiritual problem with the fact that I’m a Christian, but I’m not ashamed to wear His name. We will have to agree to disagree about Him. On the other hand, if I offend a brother, a sister, or any other person to the point where I need to be forgiven, then I must humbly ask for forgiveness. But…
What if I don’t know? What if I offend someone, most particularly a brother or sister, and I never know it? My brother and I understand a scripture in different ways, both of us to the best of our abilities, but I don’t know that my brother has developed an aversion to me because of our disagreement. Or, I do something or fail to do something and cause inconvenience or hurt feelings for my brother or sister, but I don’t know that now, I can’t expect my brother to speak to me again. Or, maybe, they’ve been so negatively affected that they just leave the congregation or even the church entirely. I’m the unforgiven.
This is where I reach the pointy end of the stick. Not only am I the unforgiven, I’m also the unforgiving. How many times have I really, truly forgiven a brother or a sister some offense, whether real or imagined? How often have I let hurt, disappointment, or disagreement poison a relationship? I’ll tell you the truth; most of the time, it’s easier for me to forgive a complete stranger than it is for me to forgive my brother or sister because I’m emotionally involved. Is it right? No. Does it happen? Sometimes.
For all those who’ve remained with me to this point (both of you), let’s go back to the instruction manual and figure out what we need to do:
Confess and Pray – Ah, now, why’d you have to say that? The awful truth is we have to acknowledge that we are guilty of being unforgiving. After that, we have to confess it. Yikes! Hang in there with me for a moment!
What if you confessed to the person you were trying to forgive that you were having a problem with hard feelings? What if you asked that brother or sister to pray for you? Can you hear the angels singing? I’m pretty sure I can.
James 5:16 – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Confront – Confrontation is not one of my skills, but Jesus recommended confrontation of two kinds, so nobody is exempt.
Matthew 5:23-24 “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Forgive – Ultimately, we are called to forgive each other:
If there is someone you haven’t forgiven, then now is the time. If someone has offended you, see instructions above. We’re all sinners, but in Christ, we must not be the unforgiven or the unforgiving.