Jesus taught that unforgiveness is unforgivable. That sounds harsh because it is harsh. Unforgiveness is the most consistent trap for pastors and church leaders that I have seen.
When Jesus’ disciples asked Him how to pray, He taught them the ever popular Lord’s Prayer. Forgiveness is literally the central part of it.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)
Immediately after teaching them this model prayer, Jesus elaborates on it because He knows they will struggle a lot with hurt and forgiveness.
For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing. (Matthew 6:14)
It is clear in the grammar of this text that we are only to ask for forgiveness from God after first giving it to others. Human nature has not changed since the Garden of Eden, and neither has the Word of God.
Unforgiveness Is Unforgivable
I’m not hyping you up with hyperbole. Neither am I trying to defend or explain what Jesus taught. It is what it is.
Unforgiveness raises its ugly head in more of my daily conversations with pastors than all the other vices combined.
The passage typically regarded as the unforgivable sin says, “[W]hoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the one to come” (Matthew 12:32b). I do not pretend to fully understand either of these references to unforgiveness, but I do understand them enough to have a healthy fear of disobeying them.
I admit that some church battles are worth fighting, but what if the battle wages on within us long past the actual conflicts? When your anger grows into an open wound that you stubbornly refuse to let heal, the original offense becomes less important than the current one.
Unforgiveness Is Optional
Five reasons we all need to aggressively deal with unforgiveness before it destroys our lives and ministries.
- Unforgiveness will blindside you
- Unforgiveness will grow inside you
- Unforgiveness will spread around you
- Unforgiveness will hijack your ministry
- Unforgiveness will become a dangerous boomerang
This lesson obviously applies to all Christians, but my calling is to help pastors get and stay healthy. The road to church health and pastoral health is paved with grace for others, and yourself.
Forgiveness is a choice. Who do you choose to forgive today?
Use it or lose it.
Unforgiveness is a choice. Is there anyone you hate more than you love Jesus?
I am not speaking from a place of innocence. Several years ago I was allowing anger to get a foothold on my life, and it was affecting my pastoral ministry. I committed the following passage to memory and God used it to root out that bitterness that was growing inside of me.
Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 CSB)
This passage did not remove that growing bitterness, but its Author did. He will do the same for you if you ask Him to. The alternative is unforgivable.