Saturday, June 2, 2012

To forgive or not to forgive ... that is the question

by Pastor Matt Ellis

I had a conversation with someone a while back regarding the topic of forgiveness. He was grappling with the desire to forgive and yet the inability to act on that desire.

With a sincere heart, he asked me how he could win this battle that was raging within him.

I noted that refusing to forgive is an illogical response to wrongs committed against us. Essentially, when we refuse to forgive, we are saying: "Since someone wronged me, I will continue to abuse myself for years to come."

But as illogical as that response may be, I know all too well the problem he described. I struggle with it. Truth be told, everyone does.

And yet, the command in Scripture is clear and we must comply:
"And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ." (Ephesians 4:32).

In our conversation, I gave a few suggestions on how I've been able to forgive and move on. I'll share the one that has helped me overcome the big stuff.

It begins with this conviction: The person who claims to be a believer and yet, having committed a large offense, refuses to make it right is showing themselves to be lost.

  • Matthew 18:15-17 tells us that if someone doesn't make things right after repeated attempts at reconciliation, they are to be treated as a lost person regardless of whether or not they claim to be saved.
  • 1 John 3:6 states that anyone who claims to be a believer will not sin (in the original language, this is written in the present, continuous sense - "He will not keep doing wrong."). Believers will sin but will eventually make it right.
  • Passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Ephesians 5:3-5 tell us that folks who claim to be believers and yet remain in sin are deceived. They are not saved and are not on their way to Heaven no matter what they think.

These three bullet points are VERY serious. They are stating that folks who remain in sin, refusing to make it right, are showing themselves to be lost and on their way to Hell.

(If you want a little glimpse into what Hell will be like, click on the link at the end of this post to view a sermon I preached on the subject.)

So, as I talked about forgiveness, I mentioned that I found it easier to pray for someone when I realized that if they continued in their sin, refusing to make it right, they may be bearing the fruit of someone who will spend eternity in Hell.

That paradigm shift has helped me cross the line. Instead of holding onto grudges, I have found it easier to  forgive and pray for the offender. I have prayed that they would make things right. I have prayed that if they are not saved, that they would make that right before it's too late.

I don't care how justified you may feel in holding onto grudges against someone who has wronged you. I've struggled with those feelings, too. The real issue is where people will spend eternity. Only the most calloused of hearts can remain indifferent to someone who may soon experience the torments of Hell forever ... and ever ... and ever ...

Here's the sermon (video) on Hell:

Matt Ellis is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Brooksville, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @mattellis1997 or on Facebook at


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