Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)
In an earlier article, we presented what Jesus said about forgiveness. He told Peter (and us) that we must forgive people who have wronged us. He emphasized how important this is by saying that the Father would not forgive us if we won't forgive others.
Although the fact that Jesus said it should be the end of the discussion, there are other reasons that forgiveness is important. Let's look at them.
The opposite of forgiveness is bitterness. Bitterness is caused by taking our hurts too personally. We decide that our hurt feelings are more important than anything else, especially the offender.
If left unfixed, bitterness will grow and consume us. There's a famous saying, "Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die."
The writer of Hebrews said, See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled (Hebrews 12:15 ESV).
The "root of bitterness" causes trouble. It affects our own happiness. We let someone who has done wrong affect the way we live. We don't relate to people as well when it consumes us. If we talk about the offense, some will take sides which causes dissension. Nothing good comes from it.
If Jesus will forgive the offense against us, what gives us the right to not forgive?.
Bitterness also denies the Gospel. If the offender comes to Jesus, will that person's sins be forgiven? Of course they will. So if Jesus will forgive the offense against us, what gives us the right to not forgive?
Not forgiving will make us bitter. Being bitter will poison every area of our lives. And it will affect our relationship with God. We must forgive and not become bitter.
Bob Caldwell is Theologian in Residence at Network 211.