I believe there is a monster in the closet in almost every church. This monster has been in every church I have ever attended and is still in the church I pastor. So to identify this monster, I have talked to pastors, counselors, theologians, and read a lot of books. A lot of books. . . . Anyway. . .
After doing all of this reading and looking at eighteen years of pastoral experience I think I can identify our monster in the closet. It was actually a quote from the founder of Life Action Ministries that clued me in.
If you have ever heard of Life Action Ministries, they are based down in the West Michigan and go all over the world doing revivals. Several years ago, they ministered for a week at a church I used to work. After their week of services, our church saw about 100 people join the church. Which was really really cool, to say the least.
Their founder is Byron Paulus and he says this:
“After reaching out to more than four million believers in 6,000 churches during the past four decades, our team of revivalists would unanimously concur that the number one problem they encounter is unforgiveness. Bitterness is rampant. Forgiveness is not.”
The Monster Revealed
Unforgiveness and bitterness run rampant through our churches. I have seen few things that can destroy relationships and destroy churches like bitterness (the feeling that comes from not forgiving people). Yet, we often allow this monster to stay in our church’s closet.
When I allow unforgiveness to exist between myself and another believer, I am unleashing a monster in my church. Plus, I’m denying one of the key parts of my faith. Let me explain.
If I love, worship, and fix my eyes on Jesus I have begun a spiritual journey. However, we are not called to fly solo in our faith. We are called to do then Christian life together.
Therefore, I cannot love God and hate (be angry with, bitter towards, or however we word it) other people in my church. If in doubt, check out 1 John 4:20. And if I am loving Jesus but can’t stand my brother or sister in Christ, then I am unleashing a monster in my church.
The Devastating Impact.
In our faith, we say that our spiritual life produces love, joy, peace, patience and a bunch of other awesome things in our life. (Check out Galatians 5:22). Now most everyone I know would like more of those traits in their life. I certainly do.
However, the monster of unforgiveness destroys that spiritual good stuff. One of the key reasons why this spiritual fruit is lacking in our lives is often because we have bitterness in our hearts towards other people. Unforgiveness really is like a monster that destroys the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
All of a sudden instead of having a love for another person, I feel anger. I have is this bitterness in my mouth when I talk about them. My joy just evaporates and is gone because. . . that person is in the room. My peace with God and the other person is shredded. And patience with everyone is wiped out when unforgiveness resonates in our hearts.
Let’s Slay the Monster
So my friends, if you really really really want to live the spiritually animated life. Then we need to get rid of unforgiveness. We need to be forgiving people. We need to practice that.
In my next post, we’ll begin to unpack how to do that.
In the meantime, join the conversation. If you can, share how you’ve seen the unforgiveness monster damage relationships (PLEASE do not share names). And even more important than the event is how it was resolved.