*Ping!* It was a instantaneous, subtle, but very negative reaction to my friend’s mention of another person’s name. The other person was a sister in the Lord, and I hadn’t seen her for a couple of years. I was tempted to roll my eyes, or say something unkind. Instead I stuffed the unpleasant memories that began to surface and moved on in the conversation.
I had worshipped, and I was focused on God. God certainly wasn’t rejecting my prayers, I assumed. Maybe He wanted me to listen. I listened. I felt like I was in a small space from which God had removed Himself. I felt empty and scolded, and sulked away. It was awful.
I knew there was definitely something between us that rendered my prayers less effective.
Unforgiveness. I knew that was it. I didn’t receive this well, since sometimes I feel like I do a lot of forgiving. We all do, and if we don’t, we all should. Not again. I quickly scanned my mind, and thanks to our ever-faithful Holy Spirit, two names popped into my mind. One person was in my life regularly, and I had been growing less tolerant of this person, annoyed and offended by so many of our interactions. The other person was the person that created that *Ping!* of the previous day.
This lifestyle of forgiveness can be hard work.
God sealed my conviction. I was surprised to see Paul’s summary of this process when I read 2 Corinthians just after this happened. In this passage, Paul is talking about someone who needed forgiveness from the Corinthian church. His sin was significant, because the whole church needed to forgive him, and the man had been punished to some degree (2 Corinthians 2:6). Paul was advising them how to treat this man. 2 Corinthians 2:7-11 says;
“7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
Next, Paul paints a picture that makes forgiveness personal and even heart-wrenching. He tells the church that Anyone you forgive, I also forgive (verse 10), and he has done so in the sight of Christ for your sake. As I read those words, I pictured myself talking to my friend, offense bubbling to the surface at the mention of this other lady. I saw Jesus standing between us, watching our conversation, having paid so much for my sin, my friend’s sin, and this lady’s sin. I wrestled with offense in his sight! He was deeply invested in my forgiveness of those who have hurt me. The high price He paid covered it all, but I was holding unforgiveness tightly in my hand, refusing to let it go, still acting like that the pain I had felt was bigger than the price of His death to obliterate it. And Jesus stood and watched.
Unforgiveness is an age-old, maximally-effective tool of the enemy.
The NKJ version of the Bible words 2 Corinthians 2:11 powerfully; “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” Yes, Satan takes advantage of us when we fail to forgive. This is one of his devices, and we should not be ignorant of this scheme. Are we? If we aren’t, then we need to be wise and see it when it’s coming. We should see the destructive path on which we are otherwise placing ourselves. We should forgive, because when we don’t, we play into the enemy’s crafty hands.
This is why God wasn’t allowing me to stand in His presence, harboring unforgiveness. I was holding offense, and I had to let it go. I was hurting myself, and I was hurting the people that I failed to completely forgive. Every time I feel that *Ping!* I should respond by dealing with that hurt immediately, and thoroughly, blessing that person, knowing that we are often on the same side. God has given us His Word so that we won’t be ignorant, and thus outwitted. His Playbook says to forgive. Knowing this and doing this keeps us on the winning side.
See also the related articles;
The Cost of Unforgiveness
5 Steps to Freedom through Forgiveness