Difficult Issues
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UNFORGIVENESS POSITION PAPER

The following questions (phone, mail, e-mail) have been taken from communications from many different people who believe unforgiveness is a state of the soul that God will forgive. Liberty Savard believes that Scripture clearly states God does not extend forgiveness to the one who holds onto unforgiveness in spite of all of God's extended grace, mercy, and love. The basic questions which prompted the more detailed responses are included here to give clarity to the dialogue.

I have recently read both of your books and have been richly blessed. I do have a concern regarding a sentence in SYS. On page 117, you say "that unforgiveness in your heart can send you to hell no matter what else you are doing spiritually right." This is biblically incorrect since salvation is by grace through the acceptance of Jesus and His finished work on the cross and not by our works. The Bible clearly tells us that we are to forgive others, yet that is not the foundation for our eternal security. Thank you, CM

I did make a rather blunt statement on page 117 of SYS, didn't I? I have grown in grace since I wrote that in 1990 and realize that hard truth goes "down" better with some people when it is mixed with grace. But the fact remains: All the grace in the universe won't change the scriptural truth that there will be no unforgiving souls allowed to enter into God's holy heaven. Unforgiveness is disobedience to God and it is sin. If God drove Adam and Eve from His Garden of Eden (earthly Paradise) for the sin of eating a forbidden apple, how can anyone think that He will welcome someone into His perfect Paradise if they have determined to hold onto the sin of unforgiveness in their souls. Unforgiveness will not be worked out after we leave this life. It must be worked out here, now, even if it has to be worked out at great expense to the unforgiving one.

Someone once said to me, "What if the rapture was going to occur in 5 minutes and I had unforgiveness in my soul. Are you saying I wouldn't get to go?" I replied that those would probably become the most INTENSE 5 MINUTES you would experience in your entire life, just because God did want you to go!

God's prime desire for us is found in Ephesians 4:13, "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (KJV). Christians can be so unwilling to acknowledge the lengths God will go to in order to see this accomplished in His children. I believe that He will push unforgiving Christians into very intense situations (if necessary) in order to get them to finally give up their grudges, offenses, bitterness, and unforgiveness. The Holy Spirit will work and work with believers to help them forgive, dispensing great spiritual and emotional pressure into the soul of one who won't forgive. I believe those workings and dealings will continue to intensify if the individual continues to resist surrendering his or her unforgiveness.

The Father's purposes for us here on earth are not to give us open-ended opportunities to pursue our own hurt feelings and grudges, rather His purposes are to conform us to the image of His Christ. Christ (in the worst possible time frame of His life on earth) offered pure forgiveness, without any casting of judgment, saying about those who were nailing Him to the cross (in Luke 23:34 KJV), "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

I believe the freedom of the soul that comes from forgiving others is at the top of God's priority list of blessings. God's grace is extended to give us every opportunity to grow in love while we are "working out our own salvation in fear and trembling," as Paul said to the Philippian Christians in Philippians 2:12. Paul was speaking of the "salvation" of the human soul-the renewing of the unrenewed mind, the healing of the wounded emotions, and surrendering of the unsurrendered will. We cannot renew ourselves, or heal ourselves, but we can surrender our own will. It is through this surrender that the inner walls come down to allow God access to the depths of our souls to be renewed and healed.

The "salvation" of our spirits was accomplished by the blood of Christ creating a bridge for us to be connected in direct communion with the Spirit of the Father. If, after intense dealings of the Holy Spirit, unforgiving individuals still will not repent and release their unforgiveness towards someone else-I question the motivation of their confession of surrendering their lives to Christ. Accepting Christ is not merely an escape from hell and a defense against the devil. Accepting Christ is a commitment to love, and honor, and obey Him as Lord and Master. How can people claim Christ as Lord and Master of their lives and then refuse to obey His command to forgive others after the great forgiveness He made possible for us? Is it not hypocrisy to ask for and receive His loving forgiveness, knowing the price Christ paid for that pardon, while refusing to forgive another human being?

This issue seems to be very serious to Christ. I believe this is very clear in the statement He made after telling the parable of the king and his unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:32-35: "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart" (NIV). This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart, said our Lord and Master.

The term "brother" used here is not a loophole for only having to forgive Christians. That would require you to judge a person's spiritual state to determine whether or not you needed to obey God and forgive them. The issue of your forgiveness towards another person has nothing to do with their spiritual state-yet it has everything to do with your spiritual state! What is the parallel in our lives this king/servant parable represents?

As I prayed and read the Bible, I remembered what Jesus said to the criminal who believed in Him as they hung on crosses on Calvary and I don't see where the criminal did more than believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Luke 23:42,43. The following verses in the Bible also seem to show that salvation is not by our works or efforts to follow the law, although when we are saved we do begin a process of changes from our old nature to the likeness of Jesus as we yield to the working of the Holy Spirit in us: Rom. 3: 23-26, 4: 7-8; Acts 16:30-31; 1 John 5:10-13; Ps. 103, Eph. 2: 8-9. CM

I totally agree that salvation is not by works, of the law, or otherwise. That is not the issue we are talking about here. The issue is that God's grace will not remove or wipe out unbending, unmoved, unrepentant, unsurrendered unforgiveness in any Christian's soul! Unforgiveness is direct disobedience to God's clear command to forgive, therefore it is sin. No one can wipe away or wash away or grace away unforgiveness in your soul-except you.

I don't know of any other sin spoken of so graphically in its consequences (especially in Matthew 18) as this one. There is too much in the Word about forgiveness to ever downplay the issue of forgiving. The Lord's Prayer says, "Forgive us as we forgive others." There are consequences to disobeying any command Christ gave to us. Some are temporary, some may be eternal.

Liberty, Your book, Shattering Your Strongholds, seems to be a sincere attempt to help people gain freedom from their struggles. You have an interesting view of binding and loosing that is worth considering. However, some of us disagree with your statement on page 117 that "unforgiveness in your heart can send you to hell no matter what else you are doing right. Forgiveness is a matter of eternal life or death" How can a person with your spiritual training and background say such a thing? Please listen to what I have to say and let me know what you think. We are all FOR FORGIVENESS! It's a good and healthy thing to do!

Forgiveness is not a "good and healthy thing to do," it is a matter of obedience to repeated commands in the Bible. It is a means of freedom from reliving past offenses and hurt. It is vital to our surrender to Christ's lordship. You are, as others have, confusing the issue here.

As we commit ourselves to maturing in Christ, and as we are "transformed by the [daily] renewing of our minds," sin begins to lessen and the desire to forgive increases. In the lifelong process of growing up, we learn to DESIRE forgiveness and the fruit of the spirit because they are pleasing to God. However, they are NOT essential to eternal life! As we mature, we realize the magnitude of what God has done for us. We become so grateful for his mercy, grace, and forgiveness toward ourselves that we WANT to forgive others! You see, our salvation is simply our belief and confession of what God is about to do in us. Forgiveness is a separate maturity issue! I am sure that you meant well, but you must see from the scriptures how wrong and potentially harmful your statement requiring forgiveness for eternal life can be! Think of all the shame and condemnation that will be heaped on new believers especially! Please consider retracting this to free the reader from this!

Think of all the new believers who have been told that it is okay if they still have anger and bitterness and hatred (all by-products of unforgiveness) in their hearts, God understands why they cannot forgive someone who has hurt them deeply, that the blood of Christ will cover it. Think of how God must feel about that after He sent His own Son to die to provide their forgiveness. If someone lived because my son chose to give up his life to save their life, and then they counted his sacrifice as superficial and not worthy of even causing them to consider the price he paid that they could live-I'd be deeply wounded and angry. Wouldn't you?

I think a rewrite of the paragraph on page 117 of Shattering Your Strongholds to "clarify your meaning" would be in order. Something to the effect that our past sins are removed when we accept Christ, but harboring unforgiveness and building strongholds around them and not confessing and turning them over to Christ's after receiving Christ as our Lord and Savior THEN can block us from God's grace. You even admitted it is a confusing paragraph, so I repeat, I believe a clarifying rewrite is in order. Thank you for your timely e-mail response and responding to God's calling in your ministry.

I will make one more attempt to point out something, and then it would be best if I stop trying. My books go against the grain of much of what has been watered down, humanized, and diluted about the understanding of Scripture today. While I do try to help people understand why I have written such things, I cannot continue to reason with them unendingly. I have to let it go and give it and them to God. Your paragraph above is a good example of people seeing what they want to see and reading what they want to read into something, rather than what is actually being expressed. I did not say that I felt the paragraph on page 117 of SYS is confusing. I said that I see now how if I had basically "sugar coated" it a little more, it might go down easier with those who cannot take their "hard" truth straight up.

My writings have never been easy for unsurrendered souls to accept. That is not intentional, but what is intentional is this: after praying for years, binding myself to the truth, loosing preconceived ideas, wrong teachings of man, wrong attitudes in my own soul, I have written what I believe to be truth. I cannot change or rewrite what I have prayed and researched and stood upon as my belief in God's Word until God himself tells me to. And He has not. I pray much, research much, and consider the ramifications of everything I write in my books. I edit and rewrite over and over and over. I not only pray for the people who are confronting or challenging something I have written, I go back in prayer to the Father to see if He has an update for me, and when I hear nothing otherwise from Him, I stand on what I believe He has revealed it to me. Far more people have said to me that they understand and totally agree with what I'm saying in SYS on page 117 than those who disagree. I pray much for the ones who disagree with this one point because I think they must have been hurt very much to be so resistant to seeing the truth of this issue throughout the whole Bible.

I have read your book Shattering Your Strongholds, and found in it freedom and hope to be in an active ministry with our Lord. BUT, I pray your reconsideration on a paragraph on page 117, second from the bottom that starts , "A hard, cold fact…." I may be interpreting this incorrectly but I feel your saying our salvation is dependent on our unforgiveness. Please say I'm wrong. Eph. 2:58 and Rom. 10:9-10 say that we are saved by grace, by confessing Jesus as our Lord and believing. But we don't lose it by unforgiveness, which is the way I am reading that paragraph. I see unforgiveness as a sin, which we are charged to confess, but sin won't stop us from entering the kingdom of God if we have received the Lord into our heart. I feel strongly that this paragraph could be a tremendous stumbling block for many. Unforgiveness is a sin that needs to be confessed, repented, and released for Jesus to take. I pray your consideration on this matter and pray God's blessing on the continuation of your ministry. LSP

I am sure you have heard of Matthew Henry's Commentary and Adam Clarke's Commentary. I do not use these men's words to justify my beliefs, but if I am going to be confronted and challenged for writing and speaking what I believe to be truth in the face of modern day Christian thinking, then I am in good company. There are many highly respected spiritual fathers and spiritual mothers of the faith who have strong feelings on unforgiveness and its eternal ramifications, but it would only belabor the point to try to quote as many as I could. The point I think I would like to make is that most of the older saints' writings that are preserved for research today show that while they certainly believed in Christ's sacrifice and grace and mercy, they also believed in all of the Scriptures regarding the eternal importance of forgiveness. The following is a direct (unchanged in any way) online download from these two excellent scholars' commentaries with regard to a certain passage of the Lord's Prayer as written in Matthew 6.

Matthew 6:9-15 PP29-- (2.) an argument to enforce this petition; as we forgive our debtors. This is not a plea of merit, but a plea of grace. Note, Those that come to God for the forgiveness of their sins against him, must make conscience of forgiving those who have offended them, else they curse themselves when they say the Lord's prayer. Our duty is to forgive our debtors; as to debts of money, we must not be rigorous and severe in exacting them from those that cannot pay them without ruining themselves and their families. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary)

[As we forgive our debtors.] It was a maxim among the ancient Jews, that no man should lie down in his bed, without forgiving those who had offended him. That man condemns himself to suffer eternal punishment, who makes use of this prayer with revenge and hatred in his heart. He who will not attend to a condition so advantageous to himself (remitting a hundred pence to his debtor, that his own creditor may remit him 10,000 talents) is a madman, who, to oblige his neighbor to suffer an hour, is himself determined to suffer everlastingly! This condition of forgiving our neighbor, though it cannot possibly merit anything, yet it is that condition without which God will pardon no man. See <Matt. 6:14-15. (from Adam Clarke Commentary)

Dear Liberty, Having just received your latest newsletter I find myself deeply dismayed at one of your answers to one of your constituents. I am concerned for you and for the implications your answer may hold for your ministry. It has to do with the question asked by CM and the intensely important issue of Salvation. I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Salvation is by the grace of God in and through Jesus Christ. I believe your response to CM suggests otherwise. Liberty, if the answer you gave to CM is true, I believe that even you yourself would have a difficult time entering into God's holy heaven. The "unforgiveness" may have never been something they have dealt with consciously before, and something that they may never deal with until they are in the presence of the Lord in heaven. In such cases it simply cannot "be worked out here, now" as you state. The answer you gave to CM seems to give an impression I truly pray that you do not want to give, and that is an impression of "Phariseeism" and a desire to "be right" in your teaching. It appears that you…, not God, not Jesus, not God's Word…, are making it impossible for a true believer to ever enter into eternal life with the Father. And this is exactly why God sent His Son into the world in the first place. Pastor LB

There is nothing in the Bible that says forgiving out of our own souls will extend to any frame of time after we have died. If a person absolutely refuses to let go of their unforgiveness and the sin of unforgiveness will not be allowed in heaven, where is that person going to go after life on earth? Forgiveness is truly a life and death matter as far as I am concerned. God's grace does not extend to blotting out a stubborn, deliberate refusal of the human soul to forgive.

Liberty: Thanks for the reply. I won't keep at you about this, but needed to add just one more thing. Consider Hebrews 10:14-18, especially: ..."because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" and "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin." GOD has forgiven us once and for all! We are new creatures in Christ; he doesn't even REMEMBER our sins; he sees us in our perfectly redeemed state. RM

Of course you are right in what you just pointed out above-God does not remember our sins that He has forgiven us for. NOTE THE WORDS: Has forgiven us for. The forgiveness of sins that Christ purchased for us by His death on the cross wiped out all the sins of our past, but it does not wipe out sins that we tenaciously hold onto now, renewing them day after day in our souls. The sin of unforgiveness does not just sit in a little bottle in your soul somewhere, awaiting God to open its cap and take it from you. The sin of unforgiveness is evil, ever accessible by the evil one who wants your life and your relationship with God tainted and ruined. Sin never sits dormant in a soul, it grows and evolves into other thoughts, actions, and attitudes in the human.

Why do we have to seek to be righteous and holy at all while still here on earth? If the sin of unforgiveness could be bottled up until it was handed over to God with no action on the part of the human soul that created and formed it, then we could just expect a divine erasing of any wrong act on our part, day by day, no matter what the condition of our soul. We could just go on to do whatever we wanted to, expecting God's grace to wash it away. Why seek to become like Christ if you don't have to? Such seeking can be both painful and restrictive to the "free will," which is opposed to all pain and restriction.

But how can we get away from what Mark 11:25-26 tells us Christ said: "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions" (NAS). There is no promise here of God overlooking our unforgiveness towards others! This Scripture does, however, promise that you will not be effective in your prayers if you will not forgive others while still here on earth: Notice the location of the Father in this verse-He obviously is in a different place than the one the Scripture is directed to-i.e. standing praying on earth.

Would not an ongoing divine erasing of sin, day by day, from the soul of the Christian preclude obeying the following words of James as well? "Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore putting aside all filthiness and {all} that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (James 1:19-22, NAS). Unforgiveness is rooted in anger-anger at what another person has done to you, and even anger at God for not having avenged such wrong actions towards yourself.

The Lord will forgive any sin that we recognize in ourselves, repent of and ask for His forgiveness, and then turn away from. The key here is "turn away from," once we have allowed Him to reveal it to us. Anyone who believes that God has not revealed their unforgiveness as sin is deceived. Also, as long as a person believes the Lord will forgive Christians of unrepentant ongoing sin in their hearts without any giving up of the right to hold onto that sin, they will be deceived. Hebrews 12:14 says that without holiness, no man shall see God. Holiness does not include grace to retain unforgiveness.

When we insist upon clinging stubbornly to our sins of unforgiveness towards others, He will not forgive us of those sins. Don't you see the paradox to that thought? There is no way we can refuse to obey and give up our offenses against one another, and STILL expect Him to understand and forgive and allow us to nurse our grudges and our pain. How can you expect Him to neutralize the stain of the STUBBORNLY HELD human unforgiveness with His own forgiveness? I'm confused about how you can believe that.

Just one more, Liberty: Romans 11:29-31"...for God's gifts and his CALL are IRREVOCABLE. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you." Christ's work on the cross was either enough or it wasn't! He either saves us, or he doesn't.

Again, you have looked at what I've tried to communicate with a mindset that is blocking out what I'm really saying. Any ongoing sin that is stubbornly held onto, with a refusal of repentance regardless of the continued dealings of the Holy Spirit, can have eternal ramifications. That is why God deals so strongly with some people-to keep them from becoming locked into such a scenario. How can you ever tell anyone about Christ's forgiveness of the sin of the world if you cannot say that Christ's sacrificial forgiveness was so powerful that that you could not remain unforgiving about the terrible things done to you by other humans? Is not your being able to forgive like Him the proof of your faith in the power of His forgiveness to you?

Unforgiveness must be repented of. Repentance does not mean to harbor and hold onto unforgiveness while expending all of the rest of your energy and focus on being a good person-repentance means to let go and turn away from that thing which you are repenting of. Repentance also means to change the way you think. Forgiveness is not a case of becoming a nicer person, it is an absolute command of God. I don't think (but I have not tried to prove this) that any other command of God regarding our human relationships is repeated so many times in so many different ways in the Bible.

If you say that one sin, such as unforgiveness, can cancel Christ's payment for our sins, not only are you questioning God's power, but it follows that all sins can be grounds for erasing our salvation! If a person willfully REFUSES to forgive or willfully sins in any number of ways without respect for God or concern for others, and this person does not exhibit at least some of the fruits of the spirit, then he/she is probably NOT saved. But please don't confuse that kind of person with one who is still maturing in Christ and desiring forgiveness but struggling with it, and say that he/she is going to hell. No!

Mercy, you really don't understand what I'm saying at all, do you?

Remember, that God looks at our heart, and if we are trying to live a good and Godly life, if we love God and others as ourselves, and we are trying, however imperfectly, to live sinlessly, God, in his mercy will forgive us and continue to sanctify us as we seek his will each day. I think you just need to make this distinction clear to your readers!

God will never sanctify repeated, stubborn, day after day, unrepentant unforgiveness. And He won't deal with it after you're in heaven. So, we're back to where do you think He is going to see that you release it and then allow Him to cleanse you between the point of your death and your arrival in heaven? Surely you don't think He is going to forcibly take your sin of unforgiveness from you as you fly up through the air towards heaven, do you? If you hold onto sin by a choice of your will, you must make a choice of your will to release it.

I think where you're misreading me might be in your returning again and again to being forgiven for the sins of your past. I absolutely agree that is a "done deal." What I'm talking about is the human deception of expecting daily forgiveness from Christ, while refusing to give up your own soul's unforgiveness--day after day, week after week, year after year. That is so close to being an unpardonable sin, it is hard to not see it.

By the way, we have alerted a fellow church about this statement, and they are very concerned now about your entire teaching. We think that much of what you say may be valid, but this one blatantly false statement casts doubt on the rest of your work. RM

This previous paragraph tells me where you are coming from with your letters. I do not believe you are interested in any understanding outside of what you have chosen to believe. I don't know what else to say to you except that I'm sorry you are so locked into this mindset and upset with my writings. If you are seeking God's truth, He will show it to you. If you are seeking to validate your beliefs, there is someone who will show you how to do that, too. I've done all I know to do. I wish you well.

I’ll close this with Jesus’ own words. Mark 11:25-26 tells us Christ said: "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions" (NAS). Your argument is not with me, it is with Christ himself.

 

  
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