As a pastor I regularly meet people who are not speaking to a parent or a child or other relative or friend (used to be friend) because of a hurtful experience. As I talk to them about forgiving others, seeking peace, reconciliation, and the consequences of bitterness they explain to me why their situation is an exception, and that God wouldn’t really want them to forgive this person. Often they will say that they really have forgiven them they just don’t want to talk to them or have anything to do with them. Often some of the circumstances surrounding the bitterness and broken relationships are amazingly trivial, but once an offense has been taken up, no matter how small, unless forgiveness happens quickly the offense grows bigger and bigger until there is a huge blindness to reality.
The warnings in the Bible about bitterness are everywhere. Simply put there probably isn’t anything we can do that has more consequence to it than being bitter. The opposite is to forgive anybody of anything quickly no matter how bad what they did to us is and no matter how many times they have done what they have done. It seems a bit overboard to say it like that but Jesus is quite clear on this. We have been forgiven of everything by Him because of His death on a cross, and He commands that we forgive quickly anybody of anything. The consequences of failing to do this is Jesus not forgiving our sins, which means He will not hear our prayers, we will not have peace or joy, we won’t be able to understand the bible, we won’t have any power, and He will turn us over to demons and allow them to torment us.
Over the years a number of people have gotten upset at me because of something I did or said. I try hard to reconcile with anybody who is upset at me and it usually works out, but there a few people who refuse to forgive me. One fellow has been holding a grudge for over 40 years. About once each year I send a letter, an email, or a message on Facebook attempting to reconcile with him, but so far no success.
I love to read stories of people who have forgiven others of incredible wrongs of cruelty. Many of the wrongs are committed during war and those who were tortured, mutilated, and have friends and family killed later make great efforts to find their tormentor and communicate personally that they forgive them.
I wonder why it is that some can forgive great offenses and others struggle with bitterness over the smallest of slights. I think it has to do with how aware we are of how much we have been forgiven, the price Jesus paid for our forgiveness, and the great gift we receive of eternal life because of what He did. So many take their salvation for granted and have little wonder, awe or gratefulness for the amazing gift of heaven.