The Danger of Unforgiveness
Those of you who know me are probably aware I frequently go to McDonald’s to drink coffee and work online with my laptop. You may be surprised to learn I once had a long standing grudge against the restaurant.
Back in 1976 as a twelve-year-old, I went inside McDonald’s one day to pick up dinner for my family. Initially, there were many other customers waiting to order. Over the next 45 minutes, everybody had been waited on except me! For some reason, employees asked people in line behind me for their orders. I didn’t speak up because I thought I was doing the right thing by being patient. By the time someone finally asked for my order, I was extremely upset. Back home I ate my McDonald’s food but then vowed never to eat there again.
You might ask yourself, “So what’s the big deal? If you receive terrible service, don’t go back there.” I took my resentment towards McDonald’s to the extreme. Whenever my parents bought me food from there, I refused to eat it even if that meant going hungry for the night. One time I was about to ride with my dad and noticed McDonald’s wrappers in the car. I grabbed some paper towels to avoid contact with those wrappers while throwing them in the trash. If I rode with someone who decided to stop at McDonald’s, I usually waited in the car. If I had to sit inside the restaurant, I refused to touch French fries offered to me.
During my sophomore year in high school, my best friend David got hired by McDonald’s and suggested I work with him there. Even though I wanted a job, I wouldn’t consider his idea. The following June, I went on a week-long field trip with my Sunday school class. Occasionally, the pastor stopped at McDonald’s. Because I still refused to eat there, he gave me money so I could get food someplace else. It wasn’t until a decade later when I finally ended my McDonald’s boycott and bought myself an eggnog shake. What did I accomplish by holding onto a fourteen year grudge? Nothing!
Because we live in a fallen world, we will occasionally get mistreated. We can respond by forgiving the offenders or continue pondering the mistreatment and let it build inside our heart. That can have dangerous consequences. Hebrews 12:15 says, “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”
Many times I’ve heard it said the only sin that stops people from receiving eternal life is rejecting Jesus. There is actually one more hindrance to heaven: unforgiveness. Look at what Jesus said in Mark 11:25-26…
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
One pastor I recently exchanged emails with contested the idea that unforgiveness prevents a Christian from going to heaven. God confirms His word by the mouth of two or three witnesses. In the Reinhard Bonnke video “Raised From the Dead”, a Nigerian pastor named Daniel Ekechukwu testified of being resurrected three days after dying from injuries suffered in a car accident. Before coming back to life, Daniel briefly stood outside the gates of heaven and learned he would’ve gone to hell for having unforgiveness towards his wife.
There’s also an eye-opening testimony in John Bevere’s book “The Bait of Satan.” John wrote about a man from the Philippines who briefly died on the operating table and was shown a vision of hell. This Filipino was amazed to see his wife’s mother burning in flames. She had said the “sinner’s prayer,” confessed to being a Christian, and had attended church.
“Why is she in hell?” the Filipino asked the Lord.
The Lord told him that she had refused to forgive a relative and therefore could not be forgiven.
Forgiving others is not an option. Jesus makes it clear in His word…If we don’t forgive those who wronged us, God won’t forgive us of the wrongs we’ve done to Him.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” - Matthew 5:21-22