“Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.” (NRSV Romans 15:2 )
When I was checking the statistics for this blog, I say that someone had used the phrase “fruits of unforgiveness” as a search term in finding our blog. And that phrase intrigued me.
The verse from Romans for today (as found in the NRSV) left me a little puzzled, and I had decided to do some looking to find out what the context of the phrase was. It seemed to me that pleasing one’s neighbor could be a daunting prospect, depending on what one’s neighbor wanted. And in pleasing another person there is so much potential for self-ruination that I can’t even begin to fathom it.
The Message phrases verse one and two of the chapter this way; “Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” And it allays me fears of one being taken advantage of and being led into sin and ruinous conduct. (Other translations support this way of understanding this section.)
So, having learned what the intent of the verse is, we are free to turn to the consideration of the fruits of un-forgiveness. March19, 2007 John Thomas wrote a commentary titled “Fruit of Forgiveness” writing about the passage from Matthew 18:21-22 where Jesus is asked how many times a brother should be forgiven. John speaks from the heart when he talks about his journey in truly forgiving. And he also speaks to what happens in relationships and within ourselves when we do not forgive.
It seems to be if we are going to be of help to our neighbor, building up our neighbor, increasing that neighbor’s faith and remaining in right relationship with our neighbor, we can not be carrying around a grudge toward our neighbor. It does little good if we tell our neighbor, “be well, remain strong, call on me if you need anything” when inside we are saying “burn in hell you fiend!” That is, of course, an extreme case.
However, when one considers the nature of shalom NOT forgiving the neighbor is sure to divert and poison the shalom that could be shared between neighbor and self. We have heard horrifying stories of neighbor versus neighbor where jealousy, suspicion, bitterness, prejudice, hubris, and hatred have turned to violence. And what is true for the places where we live is even more true on a global level. Lack of forgiveness with global neighbors has been one of the root causes of wars ever since warring has begun.
While the fruit of forgiveness may be hard to “grow and produce”, the fruits of un-forgiveness are more likely to cause distress and illness. Much better to work toward forgiveness that frees not only the one who needs forgiving, but also bringing about healing and reconciliation for the one who forgiveness. Both parties are then able to enjoy the succulence of shalom.
Gentle reader, I leave you with the blessing that Paul the writer of Romans wrote: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. “ (verses 5-6) Selah!