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Paul commands Christians to get along with each other. He knows that the church will disintegrate if forgiveness is not the #1 commodity. It is core to the gospel and it is what the church is all about. We invite others into a relationship with God because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. We preach forgiveness of sins. Nothing is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness. So, there’s something strange about forgiven people whose message is forgiveness who won’t forgive each other.

Ephesians 4:31-32

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. (Eph 4:1-3)

If you were to receive the news that you have cancer, your first reaction would be, “Can I get rid of it? Can it be cured?” This should be our first reaction to bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and every form of malice. Unforgiveness amplifies as we harbor it. It’s a disease that becomes bigger and more encompassing the longer it’s allowed to fester and spread. That’s why Paul doesn’t give any of us a “right” to hate and hold a grudge. No matter how painful, how tragic, how wrong or how extensive the hurt you have suffered…there are no exemptions to the forgiveness God requires us to extend. Because of what Jesus Christ did for us, because of the forgiveness God extended to us; because of God’s patience with us, we are called to forgive as “in Christ God forgave you.”

When you are hurt and angry, what is your first reaction? Do you keep your anger inside or do you gather friends to join with you in your rage? How long does it take you to forgive a hurt? Are there hurts you are still holding on to? Do you want to forgive or do you feel entitled to your bitterness? Do you know anyone who is holding onto an ancient hurt and has allowed hatred and bitterness to consume them? What does seeing someone like that say to you when you struggle with unforgiveness?

Remember what Christ did for you. Examine your heart and determine to forgive; get rid of any anger, bitterness or malice you may hold. Ask God to help you. Ask Christian friends to pray for you, support you, and advise you.

Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me. Thank you for the forgiveness that I find again and again because of your love. Help me to extend forgiveness to others just as you have been gracious to me. Help my first reaction to anger and hurt to be the path to forgiveness. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.