Unforgiveness: The Way To Kill Growth In A Church

I was a DOM for 7 years and as I traveled around to the 28 different churches in Lawrence County, I have found the biggest hindrance of church growth in the association is the attitude of unforgiveness. I have found it in the smallest of church to the biggest of church in which brothers and sisters cannot forgive one another.  

Wayne Stiles shares this about unforgiveness: Would you like to hold a grudge with God's blessing?

I mean, wouldn't it be great to know exactly how much of the same guff you had to take from
someone until you no longer had to forgive.

The problem with forgiving is that the debt is real, and you may be dealing with it right now.  
  • Your parents neglected or even abused you.
  • Your spouse betrayed your wedding vows.
  • Your best friends backstabbed you.
  • Someone hurt you so deeply you feel you may never recover.

The debt is real. And in order to forgive, you must give even more than has already been
taken. And this is hard. Very, very hard. But if we want God to forgive us, it's essential that we forgive others.

I. Emotional Results of Not Forgiving

Often, we refuse to forgive because we feel that not forgiving is our payback to our offender.

But in truth, unforgiveness tortures us more than it does anyone else. Heb. 12:14 -15
“Try to stay out of all quarrels and seek to live a clean and holy life, for one who is not holy will not see the Lord.  Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings.  Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up, it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives” From the Life Application Bible.
  • 95 percent of all cases of depression are a result of anger toward self or someone else. (Read this twice.)
  • Prolonged anger causes us to lose a vital chemical in the brain that gives joy and peace.
  • Unforgiveness turns to bitterness. Bitterness to resentment. Resentment to hatred. Hatred justifies all your wrongs while condemning all wrongs of another. (Quote by Josh Hedger Mid-West Seminary)

With good reason, the Bible tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger, for this, gives the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26–27)  “Be angry, and do not sin” do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” In other words, your depression will stay until you forgive. But this truth doesn't have to be a trap.  We need to act. If you are angry, admit it and then identify the source.  Knowing who or what ignited the initial fury can prevent people from misdirecting irritation onto the innocent.  

Here are some questions to help in identifying a source of anger:  
  • Why am I angry?  At whom am I angry?
  • What caused me to feel/act this way?
  • Where or when did this feeling start?
  • Have I been angry for a long time?

Once we know the source of our anger, it’s time to forgive.  Fury and unforgiveness often go together, and both will drag us down.  God calls us to set them aside and take up love and kindness instead.  Forsaking anger means walking in His will.

We can further protect ourselves by identifying frequent irritants.  When those situations (or people) loom, we should pray that God makes us “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19).  That is the spiritual fruit of self-control in action.

Let me share a humorous but a very sad story about two unforgiving sisters.  
In his book Great Church Fights, Leslie Flynn tells of two unmarried sisters who lived together, but, because of an unresolved disagreement over an insignificant issue, they stopped speaking. to each other (one of the inescapable results of refusing to forgive). Since they were either unable or unwilling to move out of their small house, they continued to use the same rooms, eat at the same table, use the same appliances, and sleep in the same room... all separately... without uttering one word. A chalk line divided the sleeping area into halves, separating doorways as well as the fireplace. Each would come and go, cook, and eat, sew, and read without ever stepping over into her sister’s territory. Through the black of night, each could hear the deep breathing of the other, but, because both were unwilling to take the first step toward.

Forgiving and releasing whatever was the offense, they coexisted for years in grinding silence.
Emotionally it is very important to forgive!  If we harbor unforgiveness it does us great harm! Next time I will share how important it is to forgive from a spiritual point of view.  

-Bro. Ken Hawkins
Senior Adult Pastor
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1 Comment

Rhonda - October 4th, 2023 at 3:05pm

You are so right. We see such a lack of forgiveness than in our Arabic churches. Their churches are shrinking at an alarming rate. Those folks have suffered under Islamic rule and are hard pressed to move into a forgiving state. Pray for Arabicchurches.