Immediately after teaching His followers to pray, Jesus gave a warning about allowing unforgiveness to reside in the heart. He said that those who refuse to forgive others won’t be forgiven by the Father.
Do not misunderstand Jesus’ meaning here. Believers don’t lose their salvation when they refuse to forgive. Rather, they break fellowship with God because their unrepentant attitude gets in the way of regular confession and repentance. The Lord cannot ignore sin, and His Spirit will bring wrong behavior to the believer’s attention until he or she deals with it.
God’s grace towards us is inexhaustible: John 1:16 “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. God expects us to forgive as we have been forgiven: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Forgiveness is an act of the will more than an act of the heart. Often people don’t feel like being merciful to someone who has wronged them. But a resentful spirit grows into a terrible burden. The Lord knows that forgiveness is best, even when it is difficult.
We need to forgive others in order to be free from our pasts and to prevent Satan (and his army of fallen angels) from taking advantage of us. “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Cor 2:10-11)
Unforgiveness is contagious and can influence our perspective, attitudes, speech and/or conduct towards others, and –in turn- theirs to us… which is why the bible says: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15).
You won’t deal with a sin until you see it as God does. So assume full responsibility for your unforgiving attitude, and acknowledge that it is a violation of His Word. Claim the divine mercy He offers, and ask Him to enable you to lay aside anger and resentment against the other person(s). As part of the decision to move forward in grace, make a habit of praying for those who hurt you. And if God so leads, seek their forgiveness for your wrong attitude.
A bitter and resentful spirit doesn’t fit who we are in Christ. Nor is it healthy to carry an angry attitude through life. That’s why Scripture emphasizes the need to forgive. Choose to be liberated from your burden–Jesus promised to make us free when we release our sins to Him. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36).