Respond to unforgiveness with patience, sincere regret

You should turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. —2 Corinthians 2:7-8

When you accept from your heart that what happened to Jesus on the cross was for the complete punishment of all your sins, God freely, graciously, completely, instantaneously, eternally forgives you of everything. God is easily entreated because of Jesus. God is much more willing to forgive us than we are willing to repentantly confess our sins. But that is not always true of people.

We in fact should expect that a person we have wronged or hurt may struggle with forgiving us or may withhold it altogether, no matter how sincerely sorry we may be. Forgiveness is not automatic or easy. There would be little beauty or power in forgiveness if it was automatic or easy.

That is why Paul had to urge the Christians at Corinth to forgive a sincerely repentant man who had wronged and deeply hurt them. They were not only to forgive him, they were to comfort him and treat him in such a way that there would be no doubt in his mind that they loved him.

But that is very hard to do. And the Corinthian Christians were not doing it. So the guilty man was becoming overwhelmed by excessive sorrow over the pain he had caused others.

If you have wronged someone and the person will not forgive you, you must guard against the emotional and psychological trauma it can cause you.

If you become overwhelmed with sorrow, you can become almost completely incapacitated from living normal life. You will feel like a drowning man deep at sea, swallowed up by the waves, exhausted and unable to fight on. You will feel like you are always lugging around a heavy weight that every few feet crushes you into the mud.

But far worse and much more frightening, you can become vulnerable to the devil’s manipulations and temptations (2 Corinthians 2:11).

So, you must find your solace and encouragement in the fact that the Lord has forgiven you, no matter how despicable or egregious that sin may be. 1 John 1:9 reads, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

You also must have patience with and you must pray for the one who won’t forgive. Remember, you put them in this position. They still feel the pain and shock.

Forgiveness is something that only God can bring to pass. And it sometimes takes time. It sometimes grows in time. So you must gratefully accept the smallest degree of forgiveness.

Furthermore, you must never be unforgiving of a person’s unforgiveness. You can create a vicious circle by becoming bitter toward a bitter, unforgiving person. Rather, you must consistently demonstrate sincere regret. That sincerity is most clearly demonstrated with humility and love in the face of recriminations and reprisals.

Mark Judy is pastor of Hancock Reformed Baptist Church. He holds master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.