What Every Leader Needs #7: Always Forgive

*A blog series on what every leader needs to be effective in serving Christ* How many of you have pet peeves? I remember being cut off when I was driving and slammed on brakes to not hit the person who pulled out in front of me. The next part that caused me to be upset was the person rolled down their window and out came an obscene gesture! I immediately felt the anger rise in my heart towards this person and I even had the christian radio station playing! I had a decision to make, become bitter or release the person in forgiveness. Thankfully my turn off was just ahead and I was able to turn off the road to see my family.

What about you? Have you dealt with things that just get under your skin? Little things? Certain people in your family? As leaders we have a choice to make when it comes to the bitterness that arises in our daily lives. We will all at certain times be hurt deeply by others, even close friends. We live in a world that celebrates bitterness (reality TV shows, movies, songs).   The church is not without bitterness. How are we supposed to understand bitterness?

Hebrews 12:14-15, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Bitterness is the root problem that leads to anger, resentment, and hate. It establishes control of our actions, attitudes, emotions and decisions. You are held in bondage to the unresolved hurt.

Bitterness contaminates us by:

Poisoning our relationships and ourselves. Bitter people are critical and become excited when others hurt. Moving us away from God. It erodes the joy in a person’s life. Keeping us hostage. Unforgiveness is one of the main goals of Satan to stop growth in a person’s life.

How do you beat bitterness? 

Admit you are bitter. – Bitter people do not think they are bitter! “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” You might be held down by bitterness against YOURSELF or a failure. Accept God’s forgiveness! Admit you need salvation from your sin and put you faith in Christ!

Release the baggage!See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”Ask God to dig deep into the recesses of our soul to remove the bitterness. “Love keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5) but bitterness keeps a detailed list. See Matthew 6:14-15.

Replace with the love of Christ - We must make peace with our past if we want future freedom.

“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.

Corrie Ten Boom exemplified the heart of forgiveness. – During WWII, Corrie and Betsie spent 10 months in 3 prisons. One was Ravensbruck concentration camp near Berlin. Many came to Christ through their witness in the camp. Corrie's sister Betsie died on December 16, 1944. Before she died, she told Corrie, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." In the movie The Hiding Place, Ten Boom narrates the section on her release from camp, saying that she later learned that her release had been a clerical error. The women prisoners her age in the camp were killed the week following her release. In Germany in 1947, she was approached by one of the cruelest former Ravensbrück camp guards. She was reluctant to forgive him, but prayed that she would have the strength to. She wrote that, for a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then. She also wrote that in her post-war experience with other victims of Nazi brutality, it was those who were able to forgive who were best able to rebuild their lives.

“God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.” – Corrie Ten Boom

 Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

As followers of Christ we never have the right to withhold forgiveness. We must see the deep forgiveness and grace of Jesus in our own lives before we can release the bitterness that is keeping us hostage. As leaders we will face bitterness because let's be honest, not everyone in the church is nice, sweet and encouraging. How do we face this obstacle in life? We must always forgive, like Jesus did.

Who are you bitter against? What do you need to forgive? Bitterness destroys…Forgiveness heals.

Always forgive.