9I wrote so that I could determine how you stood, whether you would be obedient in everything. 10But whoever you forgive, I will forgive as well. As one standing before Christ, I have forgiven that person, 11so that Satan will not get the better of us. We are not ignorant of his strategies. — 2 Corinthians 2:9-11
There are lots of reasons to forgive. One, of course, is to produce reconciliation and restore relationships. It is truly a time of joy when that happens. But often we cannot get full reconciliation. Sometimes one party or the other is not willing to take the steps necessary for forgiveness.
This is where things often get difficult. Should you forgive a person who is not sorry? What good is forgiveness for someone who hasn’t confessed, hasn’t sought reconciliation, and may not even hear of the forgiveness?
Paul forgives here, he says, so that we don’t give Satan opportunities. We know what Satan will do to take advantage of us, he tells us, so let’s not give him the opportunity. How is it that Satan gets an opportunity through unforgiveness?
- Unforgiveness blinds us. When we have a grudge against someone we are blinded to many possibilities. We cannot work with that person properly. We cannot respect them. On the other hand, whenever we act with caution toward them, we cannot know if we are exercising prudence or being vindictive.
- Unforgiveness focuses us on the wrong thing. If we were to look at our lives and our relationships objectively, I’m certain we would discover that we spend a disproportionate amount of energy being annoyed at people who have offended us in some way. That takes up our time and attention and prevents us from doing good things and thinking about things. It may even prevent us from hearing from God because we are not spending our time listening.
- Unforgiveness is emotionally draining. Emotions are useful elements of our thinking. They’re involved in our worship. They’re involved in our family relationships. Emotions drive us forward. We can’t live like Star Trek’s Spock. I frequently found myself laughing at the amount of emotion involved in Spock’s activities on the show, while he makes the pretence that he relies solely on logic.
- Unforgiveness tends to grow over time. A small initial hurt colors later relationships with the same person, or with others who have relationships with that person, and soon we are resenting more people more of the time. It’s like a cancer in the soul.
- Unforgiveness separates us from friends, loved ones, and fellow-members of Christ’s body. Have you noticed how you can resent the good relationship of a friend to someone you haven’t forgiven? Unforgiveness is a fellowship destroyer.
What do all of these five points have in common? They all give room to Satan, who wants to divide the body, drain you emotionally, keep you from hearing from God, and slowly take over your life. If he comes to you with the temptation to instantly start hating everyone in your church family, you’d say no. But through a little opportunity like your offense at just one member of the body, he can get the same result.
But only if you let him. Ask God for the grace to forgive today!