(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Mr. Dovydenus rented us a sixteen acre farmette north of Scranton, Pennsylvania back in the fall of 1976. I had grown up on a 200 acre dairy farm in the Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut. But we lost the farm when my father left the family – his wife and three boys, ages 13, 12, and 10. I was the youngest. My wife, Hope and I wanted to return to the land and live off our farmette. We planned raising goats, chickens, rabbits, pigs, plus a big garden!
The downpayment was $1,000, a huge sum for us as I was trying to get a business started and we struggled financially! I had told Mr. Dovydenus of our financial struggle, and he assured me that if within a year we were unable to follow through with the purchase, he would give us our $1,000 back!
I had been in the Christian ministry, pastoring my first church in central Pennsylvania for the last four years. But I was very unsure if the career of a pastor was for me! However, a church became interested in me and called me to minister to the small congregation. I started by teaching a Bible study and preaching on Sunday mornings and evenings. After four months, they officially called me as their minister! We had a nice parsonage to live in next to the church, a steady (but somewhat meager) income, and lots of back bills to pay!
I called Mr. Dovydenus and told him our situation, reminding him of his promise to give us back our thousand dollar downpayment. But he declined, claiming his own financial hardship – which proved to be untrue! I was angry! I was hurt! I felt betrayed! And I found myself hating this man!
But the Bible is clear about this matter of hate and unforgiveness! In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:43 through 45, Jesus plainly taught:
“You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
I knew it was wrong for me to have such anger, hate, and unforgiveness. So I asked the Lord to help me, to take away from me the negatives, and help me forgive Mr. Dovydenus! It worked…….for about five minutes! Then the negative feelings once again took control! So I asked God again…..and again……and again! Each time the anger, hate, and unforgiveness took control, I asked the Lord for help!
The days went by, and my pleas for God’s assistance were many those first few days! But I persisted. And within a week the negative feelings surfaced only half a dozen times during each day. By the end of week three, the only emotions I felt for Mr. Dovydenus were sorrow and sadness. I had sorrow in my heart for this man who already had more wealth than he needed! I felt sad that a person in their senior years (he was about seventy) was not prepared to face the Lord Jesus as Judge!
But I was free from anger, hate, and unforgiveness – at least concerning Mr. Dovydenus!
What does it do to us as Christian believers to continue to harbor unforgiveness?
- Proverbs 14:30 tells us, “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.” We are not highlighting envy in this Gem, but you could replace that one word with just about any sinful thought, word, or activity! For instance, since we are discussing unforgiveness……“A sound heart is life to the body, but unforgiveness is rottenness to the bones.”
➔ Science has shown that mental thoughts and attitudes affect the physical body! Norman Vincent Peale author- ed a book in 1952 that has sold over five million copies: The Power Of Positive Thinking. Whether or not you subscribe to his philosophy and theology, I think you may have discovered that being around a positive person is much more pleasant than enduring constant negativity from someone who raises your heart rate and blood pressure, and gets a few other bodily functions deviating from normal! If that one does this to you, can you imagine what their negative attitude is doing to him or her? ➔ Someone has said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poi- son but expecting someone else to die!” It is also “...serving time in prison for someone else’s crime!”
- Paul wrote in II Corinthians 2:10 and 11, “Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive…I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of His devices.” If we are not willing to forgive another for the wrongs they have done, the devil gains an advantage over us! I find it interesting that Paul ties unforgiveness with Satan getting an advantage over us! We negate the devil’s advantage when we forgive one another!
- In Matthew 6:9 through 13, Jesus gave us the model prayer we call The Lord’s Prayer. I will focus on three verses, one within the prayer, and two following:
✞ Matthew 6:12 – “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The Good News Bible gives it this meaning: “Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.” This is saying much the same thing as does The Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12: “...whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” (see also Luke 6:31). But in The Lord’s Prayer, think of what we are asking God to do – “Forgive us in the same way we forgive others who do us wrong!” Be careful what you ask for! ✞ Matthew 6:14 and 15 – “For if you forgive men their tres- passes, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” ➔ “Wait! Our salvation depends on our forgiving others their wrongs toward us?” ➔ Let’s put it this way: If we do not forgive others for wronging us, it may mean that we have never received the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers us! After all, what He has for- given us, the multitude of sins in every one of our lives, is far more than what we are called to forgive one another! ✞ I challenge you to carefully consider The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21 through 35. ➔ It starts with Peter asking Jesus a question in verse 21: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Peter thought he was being magnanimous in saying, “Up to seven times?” after all, the Jewish rabbis taught one has to forgive a fel- low Jew only three times! ➔ But Jesus must have thrown Peter’s mind in tur- moil when He said, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” 490 times forgiving a brother or sister for their sins against you! I think Jesus was say- ing, “Infinite forgiveness!” But that is just what Christ has done for us!
I have not yet quoted our featured Scripture, Ephesians 4:31 and 32, but here it is. And I think it summarizes all that we have been saying so far:
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.