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The Unforgiving Church

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

Dr. Stephen Phinney

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (Col 3:12-13)

God requires believers to forgive as they have been forgiven. We must forgive anyone who has hurt us and against whom we hold anything. Freedom from anger and pain can come by extending forgiveness before God in prayer.

This cannot happen unless the Lord has reduced us to a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, which takes brokenness. Brokenness is one of my least favored words, probably because it requires pain and suffering. To embrace the truth that we learn obedience through the things we suffer requires a mindset that can only be found in Christ. We must allow the power of forgiveness to manifest through our suffering. It should be our goal to identify any individuals who have hurt us to fulfill this mandate.

When we have been hurt by someone (intentionally or unintentionally) and are continuing to be bothered by it – it is time to extend forgiveness in prayer, even if that person is deceased. One of the most common manifestations of someone NOT extending forgiveness when being hurt is the nasty habit of grudge carrying. Anger is another classic symptom of people who find it difficult to forgive. An indwelt believer’s growth in Christ is immediately affected when un-forgiveness clouds the heart.

This process fits any voluntary relationship, for example, marriage, business partners, or friends. Relationships begin with an attraction of some type, leading to openness. After openness is enacted, it is time for the big test of commitment. If the commitment phase fails, the EXPOSURE phase propagates the temptation to betray the relationship, dump them and move on.

The Practical Logic: When EXPOSURE comes, we tend to see things in ourselves and the other person we don’t like…and sometimes hate. Exposure brings about conflict, which – if not dealt with through Christ, will bring unforgiveness. If conflict is not resolved, according to the ways of Christ, SEPARATION will develop in both parties. Separation starts in the spiritual area of life and regressively goes down the list of the seven areas of life, one at a time - until, in many instances, legal problems.

The only way to bridge the gap between the two is to remove the sin of separation. Authentic repentance activates real reconciliation. It is sad to say, but most people cannot be moved to repentance until the separation has broken them into a pile of humility. The good news is, humility loves saying, “I was wrong.”

There are three parts to reconciliation: extending forgiveness, seeking forgiveness, and rebuilding the relationship. Remembering, restorative rebuilding is impossible without the indwelling love of Jesus. Mature love happens once repentance and reconciliation have had their perfect way. God desires oneness in all relationships, even if only one member is willing to go through these steps.

Personal conflict without forgiveness leads to a living death – a constant dread that something is not right in the believer’s life.