It kills us as people. Recent studies have shown that couples who are harboring resent have higher cortisol levels in their blood. Cortisol is normally a good thing to our body, but if left at high levels for extended periods can lead to illness, fatigue, depression, or perhaps more serious physical breakdowns. One researcher summed it up, “Everytime you feel unforgiveness, you are more likely to develop a health problem.”
It kills us as people in relationships. There can be no real intimacy, love or honor between those who harbor unforgiveness. In Biblical terms, it hardens hearts. We have all been there—if we are honest, in many ways we are all still there. All of us have been harmed in the past and harbor unresolved violations. They have been harmful to us beyond the event. Left in our gut, they erode our expectations in future relationships, birth suspicion, defensive mentalities, and unhealthy boundaries.
It kills us spiritually.
For we who are followers of Jesus, it kills us spiritually. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says this
14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Christian, to the extent that you harbor unforgiveness, you are living outside the power of the gospel, outside of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. You are functioning as an unbeliever. There is no reason for you to expect that you will feel any joy in your new creation. In fact, only fears and anxiety related to God. Do you remember how you felt when you became aware of your rebellion against God? Guilt, shame, isolation, need to repair, do penance to earn God’s love? All of that floods back into a heart that is wounded and does not access God’s grace of forgiveness. There can be no experience of the peace that Jesus fully purchased for you. You are an adopted child of God still, but experientially an orphan.
What if it were true?
That God really does provide for us access to a power to truly forgive the unforgivable? Available to anyone who desires it. This is a forgiveness that takes the injustices perfectly seriously. A forgiveness that is fully aware of the depth and breath of the loss and the pain experienced by the victim. A forgiveness that takes justice seriously. A forgiveness that honors the victim far more than they were dishonored by the violation. A forgiveness that actually experientially restores to the victim wholeness. Wouldn’t that be amazing good news?
Can we imagine what it would feel like to live without the resentment? The anger? The harmful boundaries? Can we imagine how our relationships would respond? Would it dramatically change the nature of our conversations? Our arguments? Can we imagine the life strategy of living now for the future instead of out of the past? Can we imagine what life would feel like if we were able to be lifted beyond the hurt, pain and resentment?
This is one of the amazing promises of the Creator God for us. He promises that there will come a time when all of us will stand before Him as Judge and He will adjudicate every single crime that has ever been committed against us. We will be fully paid back for every violation, everything taken, everything withheld from us. We will know shalom—wholeness—to our satisfaction. Wouldn’t this be good news if it were true?
The good news just keeps on coming. We can by faith begin to access that experience now, through Christ and His Spirit. This series is all about this process.