A man lay dying in a hospital bed. But as he lay there, he suddenly remembered an old enemy he once held a grudge against. Calling a nurse to his bedside, he whispered, “Nurse, please summon my old enemy.”
The enemy arrived, and the man opened one eye, and said to him, “My enemy, I have called you here today to say I’m sorry for all the wrong I’ve done to you.”
Then he paused, and added, “But mind you, if I ever get BETTER, you be sure that the old grudge still holds good!”
Gen. 27:41-43; 28:6-8; 36:6-8 Appears that unforgiving spirit starting with Esau continued throughout his life, then for generations.
So what is it to forgive? Definition – depends on who you ask.
Webster’s 1828: #1. To pardon; to remit, as an offense or debt; to overlook an offense, and treat the offender as not guilty. The original and proper phrase is to forgive the offense, to send it away, to reject it, that is, not to impute it, [put it to] the offender.
Webster’s 1913: #2. To give up resentment or claim to requital on account of (an offense or wrong); to remit the penalty of; to pardon.
Webster’s New World College Dictionary 1999: to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; stop being angry with; pardon
American Psychological Association 2006: Forgiveness is a process (or the result of a process) that involves a change in emotion and attitude regarding an offender. Most scholars view this an intentional and voluntary process, driven by a deliberate decision to forgive. This process results in decreased motivation to retaliate or maintain estrangement from an offender despite their actions, and requires letting go of negative emotions toward the offender.
What does Bible say? Described from various angles: read Psa. 32:1-5Summary: lifted off, covered over (concealed from view), not held against (counted as debt). Only God can lift sin off perpetrator, man can do the rest. Bible’s focus on action and attitude… doing and thinking, not feeling. Having said that… note what lack of confession and forgiveness result in
“When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans.The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.” MSG
Turned into whole-body experience for David with significant external and physical symptoms… after perhaps only weeks or months, not decades or generations.
A. particular, egregious sin – determined unforgiveness v.11b
not just one incident, even 3 or 4 – notice words used: perpetually, forever – words used of God to describe his never-ending existence
hardness of heart toward another eventually becomes habit, way of life, with no hope of change – may be afraid to die with it on conscience, not afraid to live with it
grudge / unforgiveness had come to define relationship between brothers – true, Jacob/Esau both behaved sinfully: fighting even before birth, Jacob stealing blessing, Esau spitefully marrying daughter of Ishmael
yet were closest of brothers…twins – can almost hear God saying: seriously? if anybody ought to have each other’s back, it should be you guys!
unbrotherly conduct compounded by seething anger
instead of being on friendly / cooperative terms, at different times trying to kill each other – even though both were guilty, Edom’s actions over the top
basically what is described: unprovoked violent anger against family that knows no boundaries and refuses to be satisfied on any condition, erupts at any opportune time
kind of grudge/unforgiveness that when allowed to persist only derives “pleasure” from inflicting serious harm on another, purposely determined to show no pity/compassion
results: great loss of innocent life, enslavement of many others – “again the Edomites had come, attacked Judah, and carried away captives.” 2 Chr. 28:17
issue for Israel? check out Saul, David, Solomon
1 Sam. 14:47 So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the people of Ammon, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he harassed them.
2 Sam. 8:14 He also put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the LORD preserved David wherever he went.
1 Kings 11:14 Now the LORD raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was a descendant of the king in Edom.
B. consequences v.12
cruelty did not stop with warning
more than dozen passages threatening/promising judgment on Edom throughout major/minor prophets… without positive result
final OT word, appears pride/arrogance unquenchable – maintain their right to do what they want toward brothers until bitter end, no possible way to continue
Mal. 1:4Though Edom says: “We have been devastated, but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of Hosts says this: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called a wicked country and the people the LORD has cursed forever.”
problem persisted to NT and beyond, 400+ years after Malachi – Herodian family was Idumean
Herod the Great killed the Jewish babies in his attempt to destroy Christ; Herod Antipas murdered John the Baptist; Herod Agrippa I killed James the brother of John
according to Britannica article, Herod was of Arab origin, although he was a practicing Jew” – not hard to see evidence of ancient conflict in Middle East still unresolved today
lost independence finally at time of Roman conquest 63 BC and following, assimilated into surrounding culture and people groups
part of seriously dysfunctional family, abandoned by parent(s), resort to filling void with gang family – also fuels anger/resentment/bitterness/unforgiveness toward natural family
persons holding grudge resort to violence or other illegal acts as solution, then escalates because they got caught, are “wrongly” in prison w/other low-lifes, and on it goes
saw from David’s experience: lack of forgiveness eventually gets emotionally/physically painful, challenging to cope with – drug use at times form of self-medication
other times – self-destructive sinful choice like Esau’s (married wrong person to hurt his father) with purpose of causing harm to another
many incidents prompted, at least seemingly, by stubborn refusal to be resentful/unforgiving of those with more prestige/power
how far back, afield do we go digging up stuff to throw at other candidate/politician? whether something that needed forgiveness or not, demonstrates unforgiving spirit to persist in mud-slinging
may not reach level Edomites did – take next aisle in store, look at caller ID first, adjust habits so you just don’t have to deal
betrayal (last week) significant element leading up to divorce; unforgiving spirit can be factor in divorce, often an element of relationship afterward… esp. when children are involved
D. why a problem
John 6:37“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” – an impossible reception unless… forgiveness is part of equation
Rom. 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – since “God is love”, not a surprise he would show it; like previous, impossible without including forgiveness
so… forgiveness something that God practices; what might look like God holding grudge is really God holding off on justice
Matt. 18:21-22 – in 2nd of 3 parables/stories addressing forgiveness… lost sheep, hurtful brother, unforgiving servant
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
then Jesus demonstrated – “Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34
clearly approach to relationships God expects his people to have as we follow his instruction and example
Heb. 12:15 – “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;”
holding grudge, being unforgiving, never stays confined to that – spreads, infiltrates all of life and poisons relationships
read Mark 11:25 – principle here: the one who has been forgiven should be forgiving; in fact, one genuinely forgiven by God cannot help but be forgiving when consider how much they have been forgiven
hindrance to spread of Gospel
remember Jonah – his unforgiving spirit toward Ninevites tried to prevent him from sharing Gospel with who really needed it
“Don Nut of Lamesa, Texas, has been married to his wife fifty years. He says that the secret is that they never went to bed without settling any differences between them. But Don concedes there have been times when he went ten days without sleep.” Good to do as Don did, better to forgive quickly and not lose sleep. Best to look at Cross first, be reminded of how much we’ve been forgiven.