by Tony Nester

When You Can't Forgive
Tony R. Nester
Ephesians 4:31-32

Today I want to talk with you about what to do when you can't forgive.

Most people know that Christians are supposed to forgive. The Bible if full of instruction about the importance of forgiving those who have wronged us.

In the Lord's Prayer Jesus taught us to pray, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12 NRSV)

Or as one four year old boy rephrased it: "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets." (1).

When Peter asked Jesus how often he had to extend forgiveness - as much as seven times? - Jesus replied, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." (Matthew 18:21-22 NRSV)

And in another teaching Jesus said ""Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;" (Luke 6:37 NRSV).

And then we have the Scripture printed in your worship folder as the text for today's message. I want you to read it aloud with me. It's from the Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, verses 31-32:

(Ephesians 4:31-32 NRSV) "Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, {32} and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you."

So it's clear that we are supposed to forgive. Jesus insisted on it. He also gave us the example of it when he died on the cross praying, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

But are there not times when we say, "I know I should forgive, but this time I can't." ?

There is a big difference between saying, "I won't forgive" and saying "I can't forgive."

To declare, "I won't forgive" reveals a sin-dominated heart that is closed to the grace of God. That kind of spirit puts a person in great spiritual jeopardy. The Bible tells us that if we refuse to forgive God will not forgive us.

But we ...

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