That’s right. There is a verse in the Bible that tells us unforgiveness will inhibit our relationship with God. (Mark 11:25)
Obviously, forgiveness is high on God’s priority list for his followers. The word goes even further in Matthew 5:23-24. That verse instructs us to leave the altar in the middle of an offering to God if we remember that someone has something against us. Matthew tells us to go to that person and reconcile before continuing with our offering.
We Must Forgive Before We can be Right with God
But how does that verse apply when we don’t make offerings at a physical temple anymore? Todays’ Christians make offerings at the altar of our hearts whenever we offer praise for answered prayers, dedicate our children to the Lord, are baptized, and declare Christ as our savior.
I think most of us will agree that forgiving those who have hurt us is important to our walk with Christ, but a recent post sent to me by one of my dearest friends sheds some new light on the topic and I’d like to share the highlights here.
Why Jesus Compared Unforgiveness to a Tree
Rick Renner, author of the beloved book Sparkling Gems from the Greek, talks about why Jesus referred to a sycamine tree in Luke 17:6. In the verse, Jesus tells the disciples that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could command a sycamine tree to be plucked up by the roots and planted in the sea.
Why did Jesus use a sycamine tree as an example of unforgiveness in this verse?
That’s where it gets interesting. You see, we know that whenever God commands us to do something, it’s ultimately for our own good, and while we’re not familiar with the characteristics of sycamine trees, the people who heard Jesus speak that day were because the tree grew abundantly in the area. So, let’s take a look at the verse through the people’s eyes who were familiar with the tree.
But First, Let’s put it in Context
Immediately before this verse, Jesus told his disciples that if a brother sinned against them and asked for forgiveness, they should forgive—even if it happened seven times a day. The disciples, who were apparently overwhelmed with the thought of that kind of radical forgiveness, asked Jesus to increase their faith so they could obey Him.
He responded by quoting our verse. He told the disciples that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could cause a sycamine tree to uproot itself and be planted in the sea. In other words, a small amount of faith is all it takes to uproot unforgiveness (The sycamine tree) in our lives.
Now, out of all the trees in the world, Jesus had some pretty good reasons for using this one to illustrate His point. Here are some of the characteristics of a sycamine tree:
- This tree had one of the deepest root structures around, and that made it difficult to kill because despite a lack of rain or extreme heat, its long roots could reach deep into the earth to find water. It’s the same thing with unforgiveness and the bitterness that stems from it. These mindsets can reach deep into our souls and, once established, can be difficult to eradicate. That’s why Jesus asks us to deal with them immediately. Did you notice how he tells us to confront them when we are praying and making offerings to Him—something most of us do on a daily basis? If we deal with them immediately as Jesus instructed us to, the attitude won’t be able to set up root systems in our soul that are difficult to kill. It’s also why if someone has allowed unforgiveness or bitterness to fester, it can seem impossible to overcome. Luckily, Jesus promised that if our faith was just the size of a very small seed, it could be done.
- The sycamine tree grew very quickly. Just as bitterness and unforgiveness grow rapidly and quickly takes over a heart, the sycamine tree grew very fast in any type of condition. In other words, Jesus understands that unless we deal with these emotions quickly, they will end up taking over our lives.
- Wood from the sycamine tree was used to build caskets. Renner believes that another reason Jesus referred to this tree when talking about unforgiveness is because that attitude can be deadly. There have been plenty of studies that show how negative emotions can harm our health, but they also hurt us spiritually.
- Finally, the figs from a sycamine tree were so bitter the only way to eat them was to nibble on them a little bit at a time. They weren’t like the figs from a mulberry tree, which were sweet and delicious, even though they looked exactly the same. And isn’t that just like the fruit that bitterness and unforgiveness produces?
Renner says Jesus used the sycamine tree as an example of unforgiveness because it illustrates what it can do to us and our walk, and after learning the characteristics of the tree, I have to agree.
But holding onto unforgiveness has its merits, doesn’t it? After all, it allows us to relive the hurt over and over again, which somehow makes us feel justified in our bitterness. And that easily allows us to avoid new relationships, life experiences and the possibilities that come from an unfettered heart.
Jesus understood all of that when he told the disciples the importance of forgiveness, which brings me to my point. God demands that we forgive others because He knows what will happen to us, our faith, and our Christian walk if we don’t.
Are you struggling with forgiveness? If so, leave a comment below and allow the words of wisdom from other readers help you through it. And remember, at the time a mustard seed was the smallest seed a first-century farmer in that part of the world could sow!