We all tell ourselves lies, even Christians. It’s not that we consciously play some mental game to talk ourselves into believing a lie. The path to self-deceit is more subtle than that. But here’s how it often works in the life of a Christian.
We’ll often read in scripture something that God expects, which we find hard to do, and in fact, would prefer not doing. For example, every Christian knows this teaching of Jesus, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15. Jesus’ teaching is quite straightforward and unambiguous. Yet, almost all Christians refuse to forgive someone of something they’ve done to them in the past.
Given Jesus’ strong warning in this teaching, how would we dare risk not forgiving anyone and doing so quickly?
Here’s where the lies begin to shape themselves. And it may be more than one lie, each layered on the next, that gives us “moral justification” for not forgiving someone. Lie #1 – Surely Jesus didn’t mean what he said. “I thought when I became a Christian, Jesus saved me, forgiving all my sins and therefore God will never hold me responsible for not forgiving another person.” (Not quite!)
While being born again through faith in Jesus Christ assures us eternal life, there are consequences both in this life and the next for our sins. It may be that the Father will discipline us in this life for not forgiving another person. He might also withhold rewards from us on the Day of Judgment.
And this we don’t always think about; built into every act of sin, is its own punishment! For example: people who fail to forgive, become wary of others and less trusting. They’re less likely to develop deep friendships. And the Bible says, when we do that we actually grieve the Holy Spirit.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:30,31
The bottom line is this; It’s a lie to believe there are no consequences for our failure to forgive.
Lie #2 – But if I forgive them, they’ll just keep on doing it. Jesus said this, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Matthew 18:21, 22.
Why is it we still hang on to this lie and believe we are justified in not forgiving, because we need to teach them a lesson? Again, Jesus couldn’t have been more clear what he wanted. The reality is, that because of sin, every human, even Christians, are wary of others and use the hardening of our hearts to either protect ourselves, from those who’ve hurt us, or punish them for it. That’s a perfectly natural reaction. It’s just not a spiritual reaction!
I said this in The 10 Second Rule, “Almost everything Jesus ever taught is counter-intuitive to our sinful human nature. And what Jesus calls faith is really nothing more than living by his truth – his teachings. He actually has the audacity to ask us to lay down our rights for the sake of his kingdom.”
So what’s a Christian to do? “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,” 1 John 5:3
If you claim to love God, the next time you read something Jesus said, believe him and obey him, with no thought to the cost. Don’t overthink obedience. If you don’t, your heart and mind will kick into gear and subconsciously you will begin to shape an argument that discounts the teachings of the Bible.
“The Bible is full of inconvenient truths.”
For far more on this subject, you may want to read my blog series entitled “Playing King of the Mountain with God.”
How following Jesus works in real life.
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