The Weight of Being Unforgiving




Can We Lose Our Forgiveness?



“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:24).


Jesus set the pace for our interpersonal relationships:  His unconditional forgiveness—to the ones causing His death.

There was no personal gain by forgiving His murderers: the instrument of death had already been administered, no bargaining for life, no pleading for mercy for Himself, just forgiveness for those who were taking His life.  Nothing demonstrates the importance and necessity of forgiveness like Jesus' statement from the cross, “Father, forgive them”!

(Note:  "Unforgiveness" may not be a word you can find in Webster's Dictionary, but I will be using it throughout this article.  I think you will completely understand its use here.)

As the Easter season approaches, it is an appropriate time to examine our hearts to see if we have any unforgiveness tucked away in a secret place, maybe even hidden from ourselves, obscured as we have tried to forget instead of forgive.

Matthew 18:23-35.  Jesus told this parable.

A king was taking account of his servants, and one was brought before him who owed him 10,000 talents (50 million silver coins, according to one source).  We don’t know how he accumulated such a large debt.  Perhaps he was in the tax collection department or the kings’ accounting office and hadn’t settled with him.  Most likely he had already spent much of the money he had acquired without settling with the king; so he was unable to pay the debt.

The king commanded that he, his wife, his children and everything they owned be sold as payment.  This probably would only amount to a payment on the large debt.

The servant begged for mercy and patience from the king to pay the debt.  The king was moved with compassion and forgave the debt, marking it “Paid in full.”  (Just like Jesus did for us.)  A happy day for that servant!

However, he went out and found a fellow servant (must have been looking for him) who owed him 100 denarii (100 silver coins, a pittance compared to the debt he was forgiven).   He grabbed him by the throat and demanded payment in full for this small debt.  The poor man couldn’t pay.  Though he pleaded for mercy and promised to pay it all if his creditor would just have patience and give him time.  The forgiven servant refused to show mercy even though he had received full forgiveness for his debt and cast his debtor into prison until he could pay it all (How could he pay if he were in prison?).

The injustice was reported to the king.  When the king learned of the lack of compassion of the one forgiven toward his fellow servant and his unwillingness to forgive the small debt after receiving mercy himself, the king reinstated the entire amount of the debt that was forgiven.  Now the previously forgiven servant’s debt was back at 50 million gold coins, and he landed in prison at the hands of tormentors “until he should pay all that was due.”

Can we lose our forgiveness by failing to forgive others? How can we “pay all that is due” when Jesus is the one who paid for the original debt which we were unable to liquidate?

The Bible teaches us that our sins, once forgiven, are in a forgetful place where God won’t remember them any more.  Remember, the parable was to teach us about forgiving and the consequence of not forgiving.  How can the forgiven debt be reinstated if God has forgotten about it?

Further, look at Matthew 18:35.  “So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you [everyone], from his heart [emphasis mine] does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” 

So if I don’t forgive and I am now back in debt, what happened to my sins that had already been forgiven?

They are still forgiven!

The problem lies in the weight and value of the sin of unforgiveness.  It appears that the sin of not being forgiving to others is equal in weight and value to all the sins I have committed that had previously been forgiven.  Unforgiveness short circuits our connection to God’s forgiveness.  That’s heavy!

The whole principal of salvation is based on forgiveness.  If we had not received God’s merciful forgiveness, we would have a debt that was impossible to pay.  Our compassionate God forgave us all our sins because of Jesus.  “I owed a debt I couldn’t pay.  Jesus paid a debt He didn’t owe” to achieve my forgiveness with God.  Like the king in the parable, God expects that kind of mercy and forgiveness from us toward others.

The Lord taught His disciples that they (and we) would be forgiven AS (same way, unconditionally) that we forgive others.

The Amplified Bible says it like this:  "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).

Failure to forgive sets up a road block to God’s forgiveness toward us.  It’s not our past forgiven sins that are blocking God’s forgiveness; it is the sin of unforgiveness.  Not forgiving others closes the door of our heart, making it impossible to give entrance to forgiveness of God for our transgression of not being forgiving of others.  We have to harden our hearts to hold on to unforgivensss toward others.  This hardness is a deadbolt lock to the door to God’s forgiveness toward us.

Luke 11:4 “…for we forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”

Mark 11:26 “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”  (Also Matthew 6:15).

The seriousness of unforgiveness is that the weight of that sin puts us back in debt to God with a debt we can’t pay.  For the king’s servant, his unforgiveness weighed 50 million gold coins, an equal amount of the original total he was forgiven.  So we can conclude from that parable that God considers our unforgiveness to be equal to all that we have been forgiven that He doesn’t remember.  He only remembers the sin of unforgiveness, but what a heavy weight it carries--equal to all our forgiven sin!

Forgiveness has to be ongoing.  Seventy times seven daily might not be enough.  We may have to forgive the same person for the same thing over and over again, just like God does us, without a scorecard.  We may have to forgive someone—from our heart—who has already left this life even though we can’t tell them.  Forgiveness may not be sought by the one who offended us, and they might even reject our efforts for reconciliation; but we have to forgive.  It’s the doorway to being healed of the offence and to our own personal forgiveness from God.

Binding and loosing in Matthew 18:15-35 is related to forgiveness.  We bind with unforgiveness, and we loose with forgiveness.

A recent study found that people with a propensity to forgive others tend to have lower blood pressure than their less-forgiving peers.  Results of a recent study that came out in the news indicated that fully one third of Americans have high blood pressure!  Perhaps some of those could lower their blood pressure if they had an attitude adjustment about forgiveness.  Isn’t it time we gave up that grudge and practiced forgiveness, if only to gain the health benefits, not to mention the spiritual ones?

"But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another" (1Thessalonians 4:9).

Unforgiveness in a Christian is like living in a foreign country, a strange land.  Psalm 137:  The Jews were in captivity in Babylon.  They had hung their harps on the willows by the rivers of Babylon, and their songs were silent.  Their captors required music and a song from them.  Their response was, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

Unforgiveness is a captor and takes slaves into a country foreign and strange to Christians.  There is no mirth, no song of praise in that foreign land.

There is no liberty to offer praise or thanksgiving until we escape from the captor of unforgiveness, and freely forgive others as God forgave us.  We can’t put conditions on forgiveness; it has to be unconditional (like God’s).  The one who offended us may never ask for forgiveness and may offend us again, but we—the forgiven—can show mercy and forgiveness “from our heart” because our debt was freely forgiven.

Living with an attitude of forgiveness (from the heart) is like having a well of pure water to drink from.  It renews and refreshes.  We can share it with others who need renewal.

Water is essential to life.  Without water, we would die; how refreshing a drink of cool, pure water is to the thirsty.

Forgiveness is essential to the Christian.  Without it, we are spiritually dead, a withered branch and have acquired a debt that we can’t pay.

Unforgiveness in a Christian is like having a well that once was pure but has been infiltrated with contamination.  Its water is unfit to drink and will poison our system and eventually kill us.  If we can convince someone else to drink of our polluted  water, it will destroy them as well.  An unforgiving person usually tries to pull others into his corner to justify his attitude, so they too will have an unforgiving attitude toward the offender.  Unforgiveness is a deadly systemic poison that kills spirituality.

The only thing that will purify the poisoned water of an unforgiving spirit is repentance and forgiveness.  Repentance will apply the blood of Jesus to the putrid well and make it pure and safe to drink.  Once it is purified, we can drink freely from it and be renewed with an attitude of forgiveness.  We then have a well that will refresh us and others who drink from it.

We need to be careful from whose well we drink, lest we become infected with another’s unforgiving attitude.  An attitude of forgiveness will keep our well pure and God’s forgiveness and mercy will be available to us.


The weight of not forgiving is too heavy for a soldier in God’s army to carry around.  The good news is ~~ though it is very serious, it is not an unforgivable sin!  When we repent and forgive, Mercy takes us to the Throne of Grace and Forgiveness wipes out the debt.

How can we tell if we have truly forgiven an offender?  We often hear that we must also “forget” or we haven't forgiven.  Let’s be honest—unless something happens to the part of our brain where the offence is store, we will remember it.  There will be reminders that will find the storage place.  But we can know we have forgiven when we remember without malice.  We have no desire for revenge; we don’t feel the need to rehash it; we just abandon any negative thoughts the memory has pulled up.  We, by design and by choice, love the offender.  It’s possible that we will never be able to have a good relationship with them, but we can love them like Christ, unconditionally.

Forgive, from your heart.  That’s God’s way and He will honor the forgiver.

Look to the cross.  That is the best example of forgiveness and one to imitate.  Then look at the empty tomb and see that our forgiveness was completed by the risen Lord!


Max Lucado pointed this forgiveness principal out succinctly  in his book,

~~"A Gentle Thunder" ~~

"Please note, he finished washing their feet. That means he left no one out.
Why is that important?  Because that also means he washed the feet of Judas.
Jesus washed the feet of his betrayer. He gave his traitor equal attention.
In just a few hours Judas’s feet would guide the Roman guard to Jesus.  But
at this moment they are caressed by Christ.
That’s not to say it was easy for Jesus.
That’s not to say it is easy for you. 
That is to say that God will never call you to do what he hasn’t already done."

Well said, Max!

"Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer they gift" (Matthew 5:23).

Have a blessed Easter.

He is Alive , and because He lives we too shall live -- with Him - Forever!



Note:  If you missed my article at my other web site, Heart 2 Heart, last Easter, you might like to visit there.  I included information from the American Medical Association Journal written by medical experts on the crucifixion.  It's a poignant account of what Jesus suffered - all for us!

You can visit that page by clicking below.

A Beautiful Ugly Picture












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