Since self-centered pride is the heart-problem behind an unforgiving spirit, the remedy is humility and others-focused love. We need to humble ourselves before those whom we have wronged as well as those who have wronged us. We must clothe ourselves “with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). When we love God enough to obey His command to forgive others as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13), and when we love others enough to release them from their sin debt (1 Corinthians 13:5), this dissolves our pride and sets us free from the prison of fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
Whenever we are sinned against we must choose to remember the extent to which God has released us from our sins through the blood of His Son (Revelation 1:5). In addition, we must bring to mind the wealth of “every spiritual blessing” he has showered upon us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). This will compel us to guard our hearts against a bitter, vengeful spirit, as Peter exhorts, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)
For your consideration. A pattern of refusal to forgive others reveals a lack of understanding or appreciation of the long-suffering of God. Why would this be? There are only two possibilities. It may well be due to Christian immaturity and rebellion. But we must also realize that another possibility exists, a much more dire one.
Because forgiveness does not come naturally to man, forgiving others is an evidence of God’s grace being active in one’s life. The flip side of this is that a consistent lack of forgiveness may be an indication that we have never experienced the saving grace of God. Therefore you and I must consider this: the harder it is for us to genuinely forgive others, the more likely we have not in fact been forgiven by God. If we habitually hold grudges against others who hurt us, then God’s warning is very strong, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).
A consistent refusal to forgive, as God has forgiven, calls into question the genuineness of the professing Christian’s conversion. The Spirit calls you to examine yourself, “to see whether you are in the faith. Test [yourself]” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
[Excerpted from the upcoming book Brass Heavens: Reasons for Unanswered Prayer, available January 1, 2013 from Cruciform Press.]