“There’s just something so unnatural about loving someone who is so ugly and unkind to you…” This statement was made by a middle-aged, Christian woman pursuing a divorce from her husband of 25 years, during a conversation I had with her and a few other single women today. My immediate thought was, “That’s exactly what Jesus did…” but I kept it to myself. It was difficult to hear other Christian women supporting her complaints about her husband treating her badly and not respecting her. Her “Jesus-wants-me-to-be-happy” theology was reinforced and commended, instead of challenged and rebuked. Now, please don’t misunderstand this post to be a commentary on divorce. It’s not. What struck me most about this conversation was her statement I shared at the beginning. Go back and read it again slowly…This woman believes that her husband is unworthy of forgiveness and that she is hurt too badly to be expected to forgive him. This combination of lies is what keeps so many believers in bondage to bitterness and unforgiveness.

She’s right–forgiveness is unnatural, yet God still expects it of us. To be honest, I was quite appalled at this woman’s pride and arrogance. She honestly believes that she shouldn’t be expected to do something that her Savior graciously did for her! I was so grieved that the enemy, his works, and effects have so blinded God’s people to think that we are better than Jesus. He has blinded us to think that Christianity will never call us to forgive, suffer, love our enemies, or die for Christ! I mean, really–the statement she made IS the gospel–loving those ABSOLUTELY unworthy of it!! How is an entire group of Christian women blind to that?!? Please hear my passion in this: Christian, please, please, please know the TRUTH, know the Bible–not out of duty, but out of desperate need! That is the only way we will have freedom!

A few observations about forgiveness from Scripture:

  1. Christ calls us to forgive because He forgave us. “…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13b
  2. Christ knows what it is to forgive those who are MURDERING Him. “And they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Him…And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'” Luke 23:33-34
  3. If we do not forgive, the Lord will not forgive us. This is certainly a hard one but it comes straight from the mouth of Jesus Christ several times throughout the Gospels. Believe me, I was tempted to leave this one out of the post, for obvious reasons, BUT it is in Scripture. We cannot just ignore it. We have to struggle through it with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “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.” Matthew 6:14-15. Now to be clear, scholars agree that this refers to restoration of personal relationship with God, not to initial justification. (In addition to these verses, please refer to the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35.)
  4. God loved us when we were His enemies–sinners, completely ill-deserving of His love. When I am having trouble forgiving, I have lost sight of my own sin and what Christ did for me. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good man, someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
  5. Unforgiveness and bitterness are schemes of Satan himself. The apostle Paul wrote, “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven–if there was anything to forgive–I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Yes, forgiveness is unnatural. God knows that–why do you think Jesus spent so much time teaching on it? God never asks us to do it in our own human, natural power. Forgiveness is supernatural and we can only accomplish it through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit within us. His goal is always to make us more like Jesus, who commands us to forgive those who have offended us–in small ways and in devastating ways.

What situation has the Holy Spirit brought to your mind? Is Jesus asking you to forgive that person? Do you need to ask Jesus to give you a fresh revelation of how He has forgiven you–a new personal perspective of His redemptive work on the cross? Do you need to repent of pride that makes you think you don’t have to forgive? Do you need to spend more time in some of the passages I listed, to study and hear from the Lord on this subject?

Please understand, I am extremely aware of the difficult emotions that reading this post may incite. I beg you to face those feelings under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, because living in the freedom Christ affords is worth it. You can be sure that God the Father knows your heart, your pain, your hurt, and He still lovingly asks you to forgive…because according to Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” a Christian’s slavery to unforgiveness is unnatural…