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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.

What do most people do with conflict?

Nothing! When a conflict happens, an emotional explosion frequently erupts. Through this explosion, hurt, silence, anger, hate, resentment, and many other fleshly reactions separate the two in conflict. This punishment period can last hours, days, weeks, months, or years in some cases. When you are hurt, you don’t want to forgive immediately – few do. Gradually, the intensity of the emotions subsides; but without forgiveness, oneness no longer exits. Choosing NOT to forgive someone who has hurt you will eat at you like slow-growing cancer.

One of the most common deceptions is “time heals all things.” Boy, what a lie that is! Time heals nothing; in fact, it makes things worse. Time & distance puts both parties into a position of faking it until they make it, which normally never happens. Since time does not heal, what does? The indwelling Grace of God through Christ’s forgiveness!

Without releasing Christ’s forgiveness from within, conflicts tend to escalate (at least in the mind of the individual getting hurt). Important note, conflicts and emotional distance increase over time. It is due to one, or both parties refuse the Biblical mandates of reconciliation. Pride is a major barrier to the forgiveness process, and another barrier to extending forgiveness is a desire to protect ourselves. However, the main motive is to punish the offender through silence. Trusting in self-protection is a form of control, proving that the one who does not forgive is NOT in harmony with Christ. Furthermore, it confesses that protection of self is more important than our call to bear up when suffering unjustly.

Offering forgiveness to those who have hurt you, in and through Christ, is one of the most freeing actions you can demonstrate here on earth. Authentic forgiveness depends upon the eternal forgiver who lives and indwells within you – Christ. If you are not a Christian (never have asked Christ into your life), these action attempts are fruitless, temporary, and not eternal.

Forgiveness is not “acting” as if it does not bother you anymore. Everyone needs time to humble themselves before God, and most take longer than others. Self-deceived people need lots of time. The key point is not disregarding, tolerating, excusing, overlooking, or closing your eyes to the wrong another person has done against you, and, by the way, what you did to them. It is not “letting time pass” after the offense has been committed. It is not “forgetting” that the offense happened – or “pretending” that it did not happen. It is not “resigning” yourself to the other person’s actions by saying, “Oh well, that’s just the way he/she is.” It is, however, admitting your part of the wrong, humbling yourself before God and man. But wait. If you don’t immediately offer venues of restoration, you are still considered unforgiving in the offense.

One-time offenses are typically easier to forgive, but ongoing rejecters are the toughest because the same offense is usually imposed upon the rejected repetitively, even after they attempt indwelling forgiveness.

What makes this even more complex, most rejecters who refuse to acknowledge their part in the wounding are type casted into self-righteous. The humble ones always take action of the wrong & begin to rebuild immediately.

The most vulnerable grudge carriers come from an absent father syndrome. If and when they are wounded by a father figure or any male for that fact, they tend to call forward all their “daddy issues.” As a professional discipler of 40+ years, I have found these individuals are the most difficult to motivate to ‘stand forgiving.’ After all, it makes perfect sense, right? Why would they adhere to the mandates of God the Father when their unresolved issues with their daddy trap them.

All of us who decide to play the role of judge & jury ultimately put ourselves in jail – that is, “emotion jail.” When we think, react, or treat someone as “guilty,” intuitively, we know we need a judge to put the offender in jail. The truth is: the one who is acting as the judge is the one who ends up imprisoning themselves to their past. This madness method is a life filled with broken relationships in marriage, friendships & partnerships.

Think back on the last relationship you dumped over an offense. Friend, I certainly hope they don’t have Christ in them. If they do, what you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto Me. Start your reconciliation there.

Today, the Church as a whole, not only are ignorant to the process, mandates, and Truth of extending & seeking forgiveness, they refuse to take action. For many people, forgiveness has not been clearly understood and thus, can not be effectively applied. If you have received the Holy Spirit into your life, God gave you a gift, and it’s called Grace. It is in Grace that the power of Christ is activated. Like most gifts, Grace needs to be received, then opened before extending forgiveness can be applied.

The Unforgiving Church | A part of IOM America’s Church Series 2021©