Unforgiven


Each plank of the boardwalk leading us to the natural hot springs at Hot Springs Cove was engraved with a special message, carefully carved into the wood by those who had come here before us. Messages varied from names of special boats or favourite pets to "who loves who" to special emotions.

The incessant downpour made it discouraging to look ahead, so as I walked along with my head bowed against the rain, I took a mild interest in reading them. Some made me smile, and some made me shake my head in wonder; but one in particular made me stop dead in my tracks. A knot of grief rose from the pit of my stomach as I reread that word of pain: "Unforgiven."

Though the writer could have been anyone, for some reason I envisioned him to be a hurting young man. As I stood there, the rain rolling off the rim of my hat, the words that I would like to have shared with him came bubbling up in my spirit:

Dear young man,

So many people out there are burdened by the heavy load of unforgiveness. They have done something that has hurt someone, and now, no matter what they do or say to the person in question, their efforts are rejected with hatred. How can we humanly survive in such a situation? Especially if the person in question used to be someone we were close to? I understand what you must be going through, for I, myself, have experienced similar rejection.

Jesus emphasized the importance of forgiveness: "therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother." (Matthew 5:23,24 NIV) In this text, Jesus was saying that fixing broken relationships is to be a top priority in our lives!

You know, in our day, most of us wouldn't really think twice about walking out of a church service early. Not so in Jesus day. No one would ever consider leaving a worship service early, and especially leaving their gift in front of the altar! But here Jesus does the unthinkable: He is issuing free passes for people to get up in the middle of a worship service, climb over as many people as necessary, and head for the exits! But only if they are leaving for the right reason: to fix a broken relationship!

You may wonder "But what if it's not my fault? What if it's really-at least partially-their fault? I have tried my best to resolve this issue, but without success!" Jesus addresses all these scenarios. In the verse we read-Matthew 5:23,24, Jesus says that if you realize that someone has something against you, (that is, if it is your fault,) then you go to them and settle it. But He addresses the other scenario as well in Matthew 18:15: "If your brother sins against you, (that is, if its their fault) then you go to him....!" Whether we like it or not, when a relationship breaks down, regardless of who is at fault, Jesus puts the burden on us to initiate reconciliation!

But what if that reconciliation goes sour? Are we supposed to live under heavy guilt for the rest of our days? Do we remain literally "unforgiven"?

Let's the Word of God answer this question: "I remind you, my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus' name." (1 John 2:12-13 The Message); and "When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive - right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean…" (Col 2:13-14 The Message)

Notice this text says "All sins forgiven". Does this mean you are forgiven if you lovingly initiated the steps towards reconciliation, but your efforts are met with rejection? Absolutely! You did all the right things! You forgave the person in question and you sought reconciliation under the guidance of God! You are forgiven!

But what about the person who is so filled with hatred towards you?

That person is a prisoner of his or her own unforgiveness. Freedom is at their fingertips, but their choice to not forgive has imprisoned them from truly living. How sad! All you can do is pray for them, love them, and be open to any of the promptings of God's Holy Spirit.

In all reality, all of us have many reasons to not be forgiven! "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Luke 6:41-42: NIV)

We have all committed atrocities big enough to put any of us to shame! However Jesus is faithful and He promises forgiveness if we repent: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 NIV)

Did you know that the word "unforgiven" is nowhere to be found in the Bible? By contrast, the words "forgive, "forgiven" and "forgiveness" is etched boldly in both the Old and New Testaments! Doesn't this speak to how important it is to God for us to be forgiven? In fact, it is so important to Him that He allowed His Son to die for our sins! God initiated our reconciliation with Him! That's how important we are to Him! "When we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son…" (Rom 5:10 NIV)

My dear friend, you can go back to your etched sign that reads "unforgiven", and scratch it out! Instead, you can now engrave "forgiven although not deserving"!

You are loved by God my friend, really loved! Wow! Thank you Jesus!

Sincerely yours,

Rob Chaffart

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