Unforgiveness – A simple definition of unforgiveness is “a grudge against someone who has offended you”. Another definition of unforgiveness is not having the compassion to forgive. Unforgiveness is a sin that causes us to think and do evil things.
noun: grudge; plural noun: grudges
1. a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.
“she held a grudge against her former boss”
synonyms: grievance, resentment, bitterness, rancor, pique (sharp irritation and resentment, especially by some wound to pride), umbrage, dissatisfaction, disgruntlement, bad feelings, hard feelings, ill feelings, ill will, animosity, antipathy, antagonism, enmity, animus;
informal: chip on one’s shoulder
“a former employee with a grudge”
verb: grudge; 3rd person present: grudges; past tense: grudged; past participle: grudged; gerund or present participle: grudging
1. be resentfully unwilling to give, grant, or allow (something).
“he grudged the work and time that the meeting involved”
synonyms: begrudge, resent, feel aggrieved about, be resentful of, mind, object to, take exception to, take umbrage at
“he grudges the time the meetings use up”
Unforgiveness is classified in medical books as a disease. According to Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, refusing to forgive makes people sick and keeps them that way.
With that in mind, forgiveness therapy is now being used to help treat diseases, such as cancer.
“It’s important to treat emotional wounds or disorders because they really can hinder someone’s reactions to the treatments, even someone’s willingness to pursue treatment,” Standiford explained.
Of all cancer patients, 61 percent have forgiveness issues, and of those, more than half are severe, according to research by Dr. Michael Barry, a pastor and the author of the book, The Forgiveness Project.”Harboring these negative emotions, this anger and hatred, creates a state of chronic anxiety,” he said. “Chronic anxiety very predictably produces excess adrenaline and cortisol, which deplete the production of natural killer cells, which is your body’s foot soldier in the fight against cancer,” he explained. Barry says the first step in learning to forgive is to realize how much we have been forgiven by God.
Because the Father was willing to give his son as sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin, unforgiveness on our part is not acceptable in His eyes, as long as we live in a state of unforgiveness we will be out of alignment with the Father.
See below for Biblical commentary and advice concerning the definition of unforgiveness. Genesis 27:41 tells us how Esau held unforgiveness for his brother, Jacob.
So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” – Genesis 27:41 NKJV
Matthew 18:23-35 tells us that if we do not forgive people, we get turned over to the torturers. If you have a problem in this area or have ever had one, I’m sure you bear witness with what I’m saying. It’s torture to have hateful thoughts toward another person rolling around inside your head.
23“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” – Matthew 18:23-35 ESV
How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time. Overcoming unforgiveness is a lot like that as well. It’s a process with small victories along the way. There may be moments when you feel you have forgiven someone, or yourself, only to rediscover through a trigger that those same raw emotions of anger, bitterness, fear and regret have risen once again to the surface. But at those times I want to encourage you not to give up, but to keep going – step by step. Because when you carry unforgiveness with you throughout your life, it affects you in more ways than you realize.
Maintaining healthy relationships becomes more difficult as your interactions and approaches no longer reflect the purity of who you are but rather the impurity of unforgiveness, even toward those who may not have caused you your pain. Small offenses can get blown up into much more than they were, or you can withhold love and generosity whether in words or actions as a way of trying to protect yourself from being hurt again. That’s one reason why it is critical, for your sake, to forgive.
Biblical forgiveness is the decision to no longer credit an offense against an offender with a view of enacting vengeance. It also involves releasing that person from a debt owed as well as the blame that they deserve due to an infraction or sin committed against you.
The best biblical defense for this definition of forgiveness is found in 1 Corinthians 13 where we read about love. In verse 5 we discover that love “keeps no record of wrongs.” (NIV) This is similar to how God forgives us. He doesn’t forget the sin but He no longer holds the offense against our account. We are not held in debt to Him to pay off something that we are unable to pay.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV
An excerpt from Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare by Tony Evans
Question: “What does the Bible say about unforgiveness?”
Answer: The Bible has quite a bit to say about ‘in forgiveness and unforgiveness’. Perhaps the most well-known teaching on unforgiveness is Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant, recorded in Matthew 18:21-35. In the parable, a king forgives an enormously large debt (basically one that could never be repaid) of one of his servants. Later, however, that same servant refuses to forgive the small debt of another man. The king hears about this and rescinds his prior forgiveness. Jesus concludes by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35). Other passages tell us that we will be forgiven as we forgive (see Matthew 6:14; 7:2; and Luke 6:37, for example).
Do not be confused here; God’s forgiveness is not based on our works. Forgiveness and Salvation are founded completely in the person of God and by Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross. However, our actions demonstrate our faith and the extent to which we understand God’s grace (see James 2:14-26 and Luke 7:47). We are completely unworthy, yet Jesus chose to pay the price for our sins and to give us forgiveness (Romans 5:8). When we truly grasp the greatness of God’s gift to us, we will pass the gift along. We have been given grace and should give grace to others in return. In the parable, we are appalled at the servant who would not forgive a minor debt after having been forgiven his unpayable debt. Yet, when we are unforgiving, we act just as the servant in the parable.
Unforgiveness also robs us of the full life God intends for us. Rather than promote justice, our unforgiveness festers into bitterness. Hebrews 12:14-15 warns,
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root rises up to cause trouble and defile many.” – Hebrews 12:14-15
Similarly, 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 warns that unforgiveness can be an opening for Satan to derail us.
5Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. – 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 ESV
We also know that those who have sinned against us – whom we may not want to forgive – are held accountable by God (see Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30). It is important to recognize that to forgive is not to downplay a wrongdoing or necessarily to reconcile. When we choose to forgive, we release a person from his indebtedness to us. We relinquish the right to seek personal revenge. We choose to say we will not hold his wrongdoing against him. However, we do not necessarily allow that person back into our trust or even fully release that person from the consequences of his sin. We are told that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). While God’s forgiveness relieves us from eternal death, it does not always release us from the death-like consequences of sin (such as a broken relationship or the penalty provided by the justice system). Forgiveness does not mean we act as if no wrong has been done; it does mean we recognize that grace abundant has been given to us and that we have no right to hold someone else’s wrongdoing over his head.
Time and again, Scripture calls us to forgive one another. Ephesians 4:32, for example, says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We have been given much in the way of forgiveness, and much is expected from us in response (see Luke 12:48). Though forgiveness is often difficult, to be unforgiving is to disobey God and to depreciate the greatness of His gift.
Forgiveness does not deny the past, the Father is not asking us to forget the wrong but through His Grace we can be the example of Christ in us. The individual or group who wronged us will reap the consequences, we are to forgive, love and continue our walk. Are we any better than Him? Jesus forgave, asked that they sin no more and continued his walk to the Cross. Can we do anything less?
Living in Forgiveness
Made Alive in Christ
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:4-5
The best explanation I’ve heard of the difference between the words grace and mercy is this: Grace means, “Receiving what is not deserved”; in other words, grace is God’s unexpected blessings on our lives. Mercy means, “not receiving what is deserved”; in other words, mercy is God’s amazing compassion on us as we flail about in life, struggling and sometimes failing miserably.
The Hebrew word hesed, which means “mercy”, can also be translated “unfailing love”. As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:13, God’s mercy can cover even the worst of sins. God loves us unconditionally, forgives us our many trips and falls in life, and helps us back to our feet as often as necessary. God’s mercy is rich and endless. What an astonishing joy it is to know that in a world that can often disappoint, God never does!
However, the flow of mercy must not end with us. Christ reminds us that we are called to extend that mercy to those around us who need it:
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7
Mercy is God’s covenant of His love for us. It covers us, supports us, and sustains us — even when we fall. As believers, we are then called to show that love and that compassion to those around us, whether they deserve it.
When we reflect God’s mercy, we show His light to the world.
Understanding mercy is often difficult for people, as we tend to be a generation of I’ll get him for that and I hope they get what they deserve That is his karma and so on. Many have developed a nature of harsh criticism and want others to get what they have coming to them and then some. For me it is my constant verbal analysis of the driving skills of those on the road with me, though never going to “road rage” level, not very merciful though.
God, however, is merciful to even the worst offenders, sinners, and law-breakers. This means that even though He knows of our guilt, He does not always issue the punishment deserved. To elaborate, the verse in Romans 3:23-24 says
“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24
Simply, we are all sinners and do not meet the standards of righteousness that God intends us to have. However, through His mercy and grace He provided a way for our sins to be forgiven through our acceptance of Christ Jesus—even though we do not deserve it. Coupled with grace (being given God’s gift of forgiveness though we have done nothing to deserve it), mercy is shown because He loves us and only asks that we accept His Son by faith.
The God of mercy calls for the following in Micah 6:8 – “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” These are words to all of humankind. Mercy is offered to you and me alike. He has shown us what is good and answers what is required of us. Micah asks God in Micah 7:18,
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” – Micah 7:18
This passage shows that God enjoys being merciful, and is still showing mercy today.
Saying that He is a God of mercy is a minimized description of what He is willing to do. Remember, in the first section we said God offers a pardon even though He knows of our guilt. Reviewing what Paul said Ephesians, our opening verses, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath“.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace we are saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. – Ephesians 2:2-10
The Wrath of God
The most common Greek word for “wrath” is orge. The term occurs 36 times in the New Testament (Romans 1:18; 2:5). Another expression denoting “wrath” is thymos (18 times; Revelations 16:19; 19:15).
Most Biblical scholars and Commentator’s make some distinction between the terms. Some suggest that thymos is “boiling” anger, whereas orge reflects an “abiding and settled” state of mind. Perhaps the two terms in concert denote the intense and sustained disposition of God towards evil and those who abandon themselves to it.
But wrath, as used of God, does not suggest an impulsive, emotional reaction, as the term frequently does with humans. Rather, divine wrath is the reflection of a deliberate and measured reaction of a perfectly holy Being toward sin — a response that is entirely consistent with the righteous nature of a loving God.
Standing against the starkness of sacred wrath, is the dazzling concept of grace.
In the New Testament, “grace” (156 times) takes on a special redemptive sense in which God makes available his favor on behalf of sinners, who actually do not deserve it.
There is tremendous emphasis in the New Testament upon the fact that human salvation is the result of Heaven’s grace. This beautiful truth should never be minimized. At the same time, it must not be perverted.
To learn the definition of God’s grace, it is wise to understand the Greek and Hebrew words behind this term. A prominent Old Testament word describing God’s grace is chesed. This word speaks of deliverance from enemies, affliction, or adversity. It also denotes enablement, daily guidance, forgiveness, and preservation.
The New Testament word is Charis. It focuses on the provision of salvation. The concept of God’s “grace” is thrilling beyond words. It shines its brightest, however, against the seemingly dark backdrop of another aspect of our Creator’s nature — that of sacred wrath.
How do theologians define it? “What is grace? In the New Testament, grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. ‘(God) hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’” – 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Grace may be defined as the unmerited or undeserving favor of God to those who are otherwise under condemnation.
“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” – Romans 3:22-24.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” – Ephesians 1:7.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” – John 1:17.
“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” – Romans 5:17.
God’s grace has been offered to the entire human family. “For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men” – Titus 2:11. This cannot mean that every soul will be saved. Such a conclusion would contradict numerous other passages.
What this does suggest is that Heaven’s grace is potentially available to all who care to access it by means of the divine plan of redemption, (Romans 5:1; 6:3-4, 17).
This reality is in direct conflict with the Calvinistic notion that God, before the foundation of the world, chose only specific persons to be recipients of his grace.
The access to God’s grace is by means of an objective body of revelation. Paul noted:
“For the grace of God hath appeared . . . instructing us” – Titus 2:11-12.
Christianity is a taught religion. Isaiah, speaking of the messianic age, exclaimed, “he will teach us of his ways” – Isaiah 2:3. Jesus himself declared: “It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and has learned, comes unto me” – John 6:45.
God’s grace is not dispensed apart from an instruction that requires both understanding and obedience.
In these days when there is a tendency to stampede folks into the church, with minimal comprehension of what they are doing, this is a crucial matter to emphasize.
Is Grace Conditional? Yes, the reception of God’s grace is conditional.
This is where I stray from my growing Calvinist root. Calvinism erroneously asserts that grace is bestowed unconditionally by the sovereign will of God. The Bible negates this concept.
The principle is illustrated by the example of Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” – Genesis 6:8; and yet, as the writer of Hebrews shows, the patriarch and his family were saved by preparing an ark in obedience to God’s instruction found in Hebrews 11:7 and Genesis 6:22.
Jehovah offered the grace. Noah, by faith, obeyed the Lord, and so was blessed. While God extends grace, human beings must be willing to receive the favor, 2 Corinthians 6:1.
Grace Is Not Earned, Grace excludes merit. We must constantly remind ourselves that humanity is not deserving of salvation. No one can “earn” pardon by works of human merit. If such were the case, we could boast regarding our redemption; however, that is impossible, again reference back to our theology verse Ephesians 2:8-9.
Even if one were able to perform everything God commands, he still must regard himself as an “unprofitable servant” – Luke 17:10. Jesus taught that our sins have put us head-over-heels in debt, and no person has the innate ability to liquidate that obligation – Matthew 18:24-27.
When this concept is truly grasped, service to Almighty God will flow with a freshness and zeal that invigorates the soul. Doubtless, a failure to fathom the true significance of grace is the reason many church members are spiritually lethargic.
How Can I Access God’s Grace? Grace is accessed initially at the point of gospel obedience.
It is shocking that so many sincere people are unaware of the fact that “grace” and “obedience” are not enemies. Paul affirmed that grace is accessed by faith – Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:8-9.
It is not a faith void of loving response to God. It is an active faith – James 2:21-26.
Consider this fact. In Ephesians 2:8, the apostle states that one is “saved by grace through faith.” Later, in the same document, he says that sinners are “cleansed by the washing of water with the word” – Ephesians 5:26.
“Saved” and “cleansed” represent the same idea. Bible scholars almost universally acknowledge that the “washing” is an allusion to baptism. It is clear, therefore, that the reception of grace, by means of the “faith” system, includes immersion in water. Again, note that eternal life is the result of grace “grace of life”, 1 Peter 3:7, i.e., life resulting from grace. We experience that “life” when we are raised from the water of immersion – Romans 6:4.
Heaven’s grace plan system includes obedience. To express the matter another way, Christ “saves us, through the washing of regeneration [acknowledged to be a reference to baptism], and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Yet this is equivalent to being “justified by his grace” – Titus 3:5, 7. Obedience and grace do not stand in opposition to one another.
The state of grace must be embraced continuously; otherwise one will fall from divine favor, and his or her initial reception of Heaven’s grace will have been “in vain” – 2 Corinthians 6:1;
As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”- 2 Corinthians 6:1
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. – 1 Corinthians 15:10.
It is incredible that many, who identify themselves as Christians, should contend that it is impossible for the Christian to fall from God’s grace. Saved yes, but fallen from Grace….
If one cannot fall out of grace, why did Paul urge his fellow-believers to “continue in the grace of God” –
When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. – Acts 13:43
The Scriptures warn of certain Christians who attempted to revert to the Mosaic regime for salvation. As a result, they were “severed from Christ” and “fallen away from grace” – Galatians 3:26-27; 5:4. Grace is a soul-thrilling concept; it must be deeply appreciated, but never manipulated or distorted.