Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.Ephesians 4: 31-32
Some time ago, a friend passed on the following quote regarding unforgiveness:
“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting my enemy to die.”
The quote tells us a truth that should resonate in our hearts. We know in our minds that unforgiveness harms us in many ways, but what about our hearts? Paul’s words help us define the ingredients of this kind of poison – bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice…quite a list isn’t it?
We’ve all been wronged by someone at one time or another. Who hasn’t felt some bitterness or responded in anger or slandered someone else or secretly held something against someone else? It is poison. While unforgiveness is a poison that does hurt me, it goes further and deeper in that unforgiveness affects relationships with others as well and ultimately impacts our hope in God.
Paul’s teaching echoes the truth taught by Christ in Matthew 6: 14-15: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus revisited the topic of forgiveness again in Matthew 18 with his parable of the Unforgiving Servant to illustrate that the idea of grace is a two-way street. Just as we hope to experience God’s grace in our failed lives, we must be willing to forgive those who have hurt us from the depths of our hearts.