Last in the series of Jesus takes away - looking at some of the messes Jesus cleans up in our lives. Today's is a biggie - unforgiveness
Unforgiveness is choosing to stay trapped in a jail cell of bitterness, serving time for someone else’s crime
Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.
Cortney Sargent: Unforgiveness is not a loner. It brings its friends along for the ride. If you allow unforgiveness to settle, dwell, and remain
in your heart, you will experience strife, hatred, anger, bitterness, jealousy, and resentment—all of which hardens your heart toward God.
Joyce Meyer: Many people ruin their health and their lives by taking the poison of bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness. Matthew 18:23-35 tells us that if we do not forgive people, we get turned over to the torturers. If you have a problem in this area or have ever had one, I’m sure you bear witness with what I’m saying. It’s torture to have hateful thoughts toward another person rolling around inside your head.
Three things define unforgiveness
Revenge - I'm going to get even
Resentment - I'm going to stay angry
Remembering - I'll never forget
Hebrews 12:14-15 warns, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root rises up to cause trouble and defile many.” Similarly, 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 warns that unforgiveness can be an opening for Satan to derail us.
So unforgiveness makes us bitter, defiles us, opens us up to Satan derailing us, acts like a poison and is a jail cell, doing time for someone else's crime.
When you have been hurt by someone else, we naturally want revenge, to get even, we are resentful and it's hard to forget
Eph 4:32 simply says "Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you."
The truth is that people choose to be unforgiving—it is a deliberate decision and a self-inflicted pain. We carry the illusion that other people have caused our misery, but in reality, we have elected to take on a form of self-imposed bondage. It is a spiritual “acid” that eats through the spirit within us. Few people realize the terrible effects of unforgiveness.
Unforgiveness is a chronic anxiety...According to Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, refusing to forgive makes people sick and keeps them that way.
With that in mind, forgiveness therapy is now being used to help treat diseases, such as cancer.
"It's important to treat emotional wounds or disorders because they really can hinder someone's reactions to the treatments, even someone's willingness to pursue treatment," Standiford explained. Of all cancer patients, 61 percent have forgiveness issues, and of those, more than half are severe, according to research by Dr. Michael Barry, a pastor and the author of the book, The Forgiveness Project.
"Harboring these negative emotions, this anger and hatred, creates a state of chronic anxiety," he said.
"Chronic anxiety very predictably produces excess adrenaline and cortisol, which deplete the production of natural killer cells, which is your body's foot soldier in the fight against cancer," he explained.
Is that enough reasons why we need to forgive others?
Corrie ten Boom was an amazing Dutch Christian who during the War hid Jews from the Nazis. And she was caught and arrested, as was her father and her sister, and they were taken to concentration camps. Her father died, and her sister Betsie, who went with her to Ravensbrück, died also in that concentration camp. But amazingly Corrie survived. And after the War she went round just talking about forgiveness, this message of forgiveness.
One time in 1947 she was in a church in Munich. And when she finished her talk, this man came up to her, and she recognised him as one of the guards in Ravensbrück concentration camp. He didn’t recognise her, but she recognised him, and she could remember his cruelty. And he came up to her and he said, ‘Thank you for your message, wonderful message about forgiveness. I have become a Christian, and I know that God has forgiven me. I want to know that you forgive me.’ And he stuck out his hand and said, ‘Shake my hand as a sign that you’ve forgiven me.’ And Corrie said she just – all the memories of her sister dying, his cruelty, came back into her head. She wrote this:
‘I stood there and I could not. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow, terrible death simply for the asking? It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I’d ever had to do. I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion – I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me,” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand – I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”’
‘And so, woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands, and then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother,” I cried, “with all my heart.” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I have never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.’
To forgive, we need to realise how much we have been forgiven - Matt 18:23-35
Jesus told a story to illustrate his answer to Peter's question - how much should we forgive others. The Rabbis of the time taught three times, Peter thought maybe 7 times was enough. Jesus said 70 times 7 - basically always forgive. He then told a parable to illustrate the point.
The servant owed 10,000 talents - a talent was 20 years wages for a labourer. The average builder earns £23k in the UK - so a talent is just under half a million pounds. 10,000 talents is thus around about £5billion pounds. So the story is about a CEO of a bank! An impossible debt to pay off. So the King lets him off. The point is that God's grace is infinite - we have been forgiven so much.
The servant then sees someone who owes him 100 denarii - a hundred days wages and starts to choke him for the debt, throwing him in prison.
Of course he gets found out and the wicked servant himself gets thrown into jail - literally to the tormentors. Unforgiveness is torment.
The grace of God is immense. When Jesus died on the cross for your sin - it was for every thing - every thought, every action, every word that falls short of the glory of God - all paid off in full, forgiven. When we grasp that, forgiving others become a whole lot more easy.
As C.S. Lewis put it To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
Forgiving is a choice - you will never do it if you wait until it feels right. We have to choose to obey God and not allow the devil free reign in our thoughts.
Giving up resentment about the wrong done to you
Giving up resentment towards the wrongdoer
Giving up plans for retaliation.
So many times as I'm with people wrestling with us, I tell them to speak out "Lord I forgive so and so for x." And then they say "Lord help me to forgive so and so for x". Those are different things! What it means is that they haven't chosen to forgive. First comes the choice and then the dependency on the Spirit to keep them forgiven.
You cannot forgive without the power of the Holy Spirit. It's too hard to do on your own. If you are truly willing, God will enable you, but you must humble yourself and cry out to Him for help. In John 20:22-23 Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit!" His next instruction was about forgiving people. Ask God to breathe the Holy Spirit on you so you can forgive those who've hurt you.
There are a couple of things the Bible tells us to do in forgivings
1) Pray for them. Pray for your enemies and those who abuse and misuse you. Pray for their happiness and welfare (see Luke 6:27-28)
I was bullied at uni mercilessly, and wanted revenge. But when I forgave him and started praying for God to bless him. My anxiety over it went and he actually stopped because it was no longer affecting me.
2) Bless and do not curse them (Romans 12:14). In the Greek to bless means "to speak well of" and to curse means "to speak evil of." You can't walk in forgiveness and be a gossip. You must stop repeating the offense. You can't get over it if you continue to talk about it. Proverbs 17:9 says that he who covers an offense seeks love.
Forgive the one who hurt you badly years ago and the guy that stepped on your toe in Tesco yesterday and everyone in between! Forgive quickly - the quicker you forgive the easier it is.
Four types of people here today
Spectator- watching, keep watching. Sometimes people realise they aren't just watching they are actively seeking.
Seeker - serious asker of questions. Great keep asking. Sometimes people realise their questions have been answered and they are following Jesus.
Follower - I'm ready to follow Jesus. Sometimes people realise they want to making a difference with Jesus and become a builder
Builders - I want to build the kingdom
Jesus died on the cross for us so that we could be forgiven. Receive that this morning if you never had before.
Choose to forgive - do it now!
If you know that you are holding onto unforgiveness, then choose to forgive today.
If you know that bitterness has taken hold - then we will happily pray for you to be set free, but you need to choose to forgive those who have hurt you for it to go.