Forgiving Others

Posted on July 10, 2013

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Forgiving Others

This message on forgiving others was preached by Dr. Greg Johnston at The Grove Church as part of the “Living in Community with Others” series.  

Dale Carnegie once visited Yellowstone Park and went to a place where the grizzly bears were fed.  He didn’t have to wait long before a grizzly came into the clearing where garbage had been dumped to entice the bears to come.

The guide told the group that the grizzly could whip any animal in the west with the possible exception of the buffalo and the Kodiak bear.

Carnegie noticed that there was one animal that the grizzly would allow to eat with him – a skunk!  Of course the ole grizzly would have easily won any fight with the skunk, and even though he probably resented the skunk and wanted to get rid of him because of his impudence, he didn’t.

Why?  Because he knew there would be a high cost for getting even.

When we harbor an unforgiving attitude toward other people or even toward God, we are unconsciously nurturing the seed of bitterness.

Bitterness is an emotion that is characterized by an intense animosity.  It is an emotional cancer that consumes the person who harbors and nurtures such feelings in their heart.

Even that ole grizzly bear was smart enough to leave that skunk alone, much smarter than many humans who spend weary days and restless nights brooding over hurts and resentments, and trying to hatch ways to squelch the person who hurt them.

Unfortunately, they fail to realize that the one they are actually destroying is their own self.

The Word of God cautions us against harboring an attitude of unforgiveness and its self-destructive produce of bitterness.

Hebrews 12:14-15

14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;


T/S: Today I want to discuss three aspects of bitterness that results from unforgiveness.

The Root of Bitterness

In v. 15 we see bitterness described as the, “…root of bitterness springing up.”  Springing up – literally means “to sprout.”

Bitterness is the result of our carnal, fleshly nature sprouting and putting down roots into our lives.

The seed of bitterness could be any one of the deeds of the flesh – jealousy, envy, self-centeredness, ambition, frustration, rage, resentment, hatred, and most of all, unforgiveness.

Every one of these attitudes are concerned with protecting and coddling our self, and could be summarized under one heading – self-centeredness.

The root of bitterness occurs when some real or perceived hurt happens in a person’s life.  Then instead of forgiving, they allow this resentment to ferment in their life until the tentacles and roots have deeply imbedded themselves and wrapped themselves around the depth of our soul.

But this need not happen.  The Apostle Paul said:

Ephesians 4:26-27

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Jesus is a prime example of being angry, but not committing sin when He drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple. Explain

Why are we told not to let the sun go down on our anger?  It is because nurtured anger can become hatred which can sprout up in bitterness.

A bitter person is one who has allowed his hurt to fester and at the same time looking for faults in the one who has knowingly or unknowingly hurt them, in order to justify their bitterness.

The Fruit of Bitterness

The venom and poison of the bitter person hurts others, but guess who it hurts the most?

Bitterness is like cutting your nose off to spite your face.  It always has a boomerang effect.

Dr. S.I. McMillen wrote a book a number of years ago, entitled, None of These Diseases.  In the book, he listed over fifty diseases that may be caused by destructive, sinful emotions like – anger, anxiety, stress, bitterness, hate, unforgiveness, etc.

These destructive emotions cause psychosomatic disorders in our physical health.  Psych = mind, and soma = body.

He said, “The emotional center produces widespread changes by means of three principle mechanisms:  1) By changing the amount of blood flowing to an organ, 2) By affecting the secretions of certain glands, and 3) By changing the tension of the muscles.”

Example:  When someone is frightened their heart beats faster, adrenalin is produced, and their muscles are tensed.

Bitterness can kill you by degrees.

Dr. McMillen wrote:  “The man I hate may be many miles from my bedroom, but more cruel than any slave-driver, he whips my thoughts into such a frenzy that my innerspring mattress becomes a torture rack.  The lowliest serf can sleep, but not I.  I really must acknowledge that I am a slave to every man upon who I pour the vial of my wrath.”

Illustration:  There is an ancient story about Roman soldiers who became dissatisfied over their regimen and rations.  They became so angry at the gods that they shot arrows straight into the sky at the gods and were killed by the descending arrows.

When we allow unforgiveness and bitterness in our life, there will be physical trouble, emotional unrest, and spiritual trouble in our life, because of our ruptured fellowship with God and man.

The Pursuit of Bitterness

A root is under ground, you have to go after it, find it, and dig it up if it is undesirable.  Example: Dock weed

Three reasons we need to pursue bitterness

1) In order to recognize it. Most people will not recognize their bitterness.  They become adept at looking at the faults of others.

2) In order to remove it.

Ephesians 4:29-32

29Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

We must learn to forgive.

v. 15 – . . . See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God;

That means, lest we fail to give to others what God gave freely to us – grace and forgiveness.

When we have been hurt, we need to put that hurt under Calvary’s blood.

You may ask – When I forgive a person is that going to deal with those memories?  Well, not unless you have amnesia.

An unknown sage once said, “The hornet of remembering may fly again, but the sting of bitterness has been removed.”

3)  In order to replace it.

14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

  • Replace hatred with harmony. (peace)
  • Replace bitterness with betterness. (holiness and sanctification)

In order to accomplish such an awesome task, we must exchange our nature for Christ’s nature.

Colossians 3:5-17

5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 1 0 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him- 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

The poet Edwin Markham reached the age of retirement and discovered that his banker had defrauded him.  He was ready to retire, but penniless.

He came to the place where he could no longer write poetry because bitterness had blown the candle of joy out in his heart.

He was obsessed with the evil that had been perpetrated against him by a man he thought was a friend.

One day the Holy Spirit convicted him with this thought, “Markham, if you do not deal with this thing, it is going to ruin you.  You cannot afford the price you are paying.  You must forgive that man.”

The poet prayed, Lord, I will, and I do freely forgive.”

Once the root of bitterness was gone, the joy began to flow, and he wrote his most famous poem, “Outwitted.”

He drew a circle that shut me out –

Hectic rebel, a thing to flout,

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!

If someone has wronged you or harmed you and bitterness has been you daily guide, pursue that bitterness, and with the Spirit’s help, root it out.

Draw a circle that takes in those who have wronged you.  Forgive them for your sake and for Christ’s sake!

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