Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

How To Turn Loose Of Relationship Clutter

 Matthew 6:12, 14, 15

12 …forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us… 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

            Have you ever seen the TV show “Clean House?” Some months ago I was channel surfing and came across it. I was fascinated instantly. The premise behind the show is simple: the “Clean House” crew arrives at a home that has requested their assistance in dealing with out of control clutter. Upon arrival they go through the house with the owners examining the mess and hearing the story of how things got into the mess they see. The Clean House crew offers to help the family get organized, and provides painting, flooring and other needed improvements, if the family will get rid of the unnecessary junk and clutter in a yard sale. It’s at this point where the tension begins. There always seems to be a real reluctance on the part of the homeowners to turn loose of their clutter, even if it has completely filled up every room in their house.

            One thing I’ve noticed in watching “Clean House” is that the clutter and mess in these people’s homes always affects the relationships among the family members. Rooms filled with old junk, clothes, furniture, and collectibles puts serious stress on relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children. 

            The clutter begins to come between the family members. By the end of “Clean House” the family finds that getting rid of all these old, unnecessary items has not only improved the look of their home, but has changed the mood in their family as well.

            The show “Clean House” makes me wonder, “Do we allow the clutter in our relationships to come between us and those we love?”

            “What kind of clutter causes damage in our relationships?”

            Do you have relationships today that are damaged because of all the clutter you have allowed to build up over the years?

            Every hurtful thing that person has said to you, every time you have been wronged by them…do you let all that build up in your relationships until your relationships are damaged?

            The key to all healthy relationships:  whether it is with God, or with others, is forgiveness.

            Relationships are maintained, healed and restored by forgiveness.

            Forgiveness is what removes the clutter of past hurts, relationship wounds, and nagging grudges.

            Today I want us to think about what Jesus teaches us about how to turn loose of relationship clutter.

            If your spirit is in need of a “Clean House” today, you have come to the right place!

            In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us three central truths to cleaning out clutter in our relationships.

 1) God’s forgiveness clears out the clutter in our spiritual lives.

            In Isaiah 59:2 the Bible says, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins he has turned away and will not listen anymore” (NLT).

            Another translation puts it this way: “…your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you” (NRSV).


            Sin clutters up our relationship with God and with other people. It causes barriers between God and us. Sin cuts us off from a relationship with God.

            Before our relationship with God can be right we need to “clean house.” The clutter has to go. Since our sin is against God, we owe God a debt. Only God can take care of our sin. Only God can clean out the clutter that cuts us off from God.

            Since it is sin that creates barriers between us and God, sin is our biggest problem and our biggest enemy that we face in life.

            Since our greatest problem is sin, our greatest need in life is forgiveness.

            It is forgiveness of sin that clears out the clutter.

            Bible scholar John Stott has written, “Forgiveness is as indispensable to the life and health of the soul as food is for the body.”

            Thankfully the God whom we sin against is a God of forgiveness.

            The Bible says, “…You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love” (Nehemiah 9:17).

            God has provided a way to remove the clutter that sins cause from our lives.

            “…If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9, NLT).

            Psalm 103:8 tells us that God “has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”

            God’s forgiveness cleans out the clutter in our spiritual lives, and gives us a new beginning!

2) Our forgiveness of others clears out the clutter in our personal lives.

            Jesus taught us that we are to forgive others just as God has forgiven us. We are taught to pray that God would forgive us in the same way that we forgive others.

            Every relationship that we have will experience the need for regular forgiveness. The very nature of flawed, sinful human beings in relationships with one another brings with it a multitude of misunderstandings, words spoken in anger, frustration and retaliation, thoughtless actions, and selfishness.

            What we do with the inevitable hurts, bruises, and wounds of relationships determines whether these relationships are healthy or dysfunctional.

            In 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love “keeps no record of being wronged” (NLT).

            Do you keep a record of all the times someone has wronged you? Can you recall every hurtful word, and every painful action that someone has done to you?

            One day two men were fishing together when one man said to the other, “Last night my wife and I had an argument and she got historical.”

            The second man replied, “You mean she got hysterical.”

            The first man said, “No, she went historical. She brought up every wrong thing I have ever done.”

            Do you get historical in your relationships?

            Do you have a record in your mind or heart of all the wrongs that have been done to you?

            Do you see how that clutters up your heart, your soul, and your mind?

            Do you see how all that junk hurts your relationship with other people, and with God?

            Healthy relationships are known for their high level of forgiveness. Without forgiveness the hurts of the past continue to clutter up our relationships causing distance among us and loss of intimacy.

            The Bible tells us that we are to forgive each other as God has forgiven us through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:31).

            That means the forgiveness we receive from God for our sins can enable us to forgive others who sin against us.

            An old Puritan writer once said, “There is none so tender to others as they which have received mercy themselves, for they know how gently God [has] dealt with them.”

            The word Jesus uses for “forgive” (aphiemi) means literally “to throw away.” That is a great description of forgiveness! Forgiveness means to take that clutter in your relationship that is cutting you off from those you love, and throw it away.

            When it comes to sin, the hurts, wounds and grudges you have collected from your relationships, this is not the time to be a pack rat!

            The more you hang on to all this clutter, the more it works against the health of your relationships.

A school teacher once told each of her students to bring a clear plastic bag and a sack of potatoes to class.

She instructed her students to think of every person they had a grudge against. For every person they refused to forgive, they took a potato, wrote on it the name of the person and date, and put it in the plastic bag.

The teacher told the students to carry this bag with them everywhere they went, putting it beside their bed at night, on the car seat next to them when driving, on their lap when riding, next to their desk during classes.

Some bags became really heavy. Lugging this around, paying attention to it all the time, and remembering not to leave it in embarrassing places was a hassle.

Over time the potatoes became moldy, they started to smell, and began to sprout “eyes.”

Often we think of forgiveness as a gift to the other person, but it clearly is a gift to ourselves.

            Forgiveness, the regular throwing away of past hurts, grievances, and resentments, is at the heart of healthy relationships.

            What in your life do you need to forgive and throw away? What hurtful word spoken to you? What thoughtless act committed against you? What wrong that was done to you?

            The price of keeping that clutter in your life is costly to the health of your personal life and your relationships.

            Aren’t you tired of carrying that heavy sack of unforgiveness around with you, every moment of every day?

            Throw it out.

            You can do it.

            God will help you.

3) Unforgiveness in our lives clutters up our relationship with God and everyone else.

            Jesus makes it clear that our spiritual lives and our personal lives are all interconnected. The health of one affects the health of the other. Forgiveness is the medicine that makes our spiritual lives and our personal lives healthy.

            Jesus said, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15, NLT).

            Unhealthy spiritual lives affect our personal lives. Unhealthy personal lives affect our spiritual life.

            Unforgiveness in our lives toward others clutters up our relationship with God.

            Unforgiveness in our spiritual lives clutters up our relationship with others.


            Do you see how unhealthy clutter like sin and unforgiveness affects every part of our lives?

            The farther we are from God because of sin, the more it affects our relationships with others.

            The farther we are from others because of unforgiveness, the more if affects our relationship with God.

            Do you need to “Clean House” in your heart?

            Do you have some clutter in your life that has caused barriers between you and God?

            Will you confess it to God today and let God clean out that clutter that is coming between you and God?

            Do you have some clutter in your life that is causing barriers between you and your spouse, your children, your parents, your brothers and sisters, your neighbor, a co-worker, or a member of your church?

            Would you be wiling to forgive and to throw out all that junk that is causing the division in your relationship?

            A Bible scholar once wrote, “Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offence against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling.”

            If for nothing else, to forgive others for the sins they commit against you, is to rid yourself of the clutter that has built up in your heart, soul, and mind.

            Even though some of this junk occurred years ago, it is still cluttering up your life and your relationships today.

            Wouldn’t you like to get rid of that junk in your life?

            There is no reason that today can’t be the day that you “Clean House” and remove the clutter that is standing between you, God, and your relationship with others.


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