Summary: Families that forgive know how to live. If you're going to grow, you must let it go.
8 Words to Change Your Family: Forgiveness
Rev. Brian Bill
“It’s not often that forgiveness becomes the topic of a national conversation.” This sentence comes from a book called, “Amish Grace,” which recounts the true story of the murder of some Amish girls in a school house in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania almost five years ago. Exactly one week after the murders, at the exact time they took place, churches and schools throughout the county rang their bells in solidarity and support. [Ring Bell]
This book has been turned into a movie that aired on the Lifetime channel this past March. I watched the DVD Thursday night and couldn’t stop crying. Recognizing that it’s not good to cry alone when you can cry with others, I’d like us to watch a three-minute clip. Let me set the scene. The man who committed the atrocity took his own life. After the murders took place, that same day three Amish men show up at the home of the murderer’s wife. She and her father are trying to process what happened when they hear a knock on the front door.
Show clip (35:22-38:10).
During one of the “grief sharing” meetings the murderer’s wife was mad at God and didn’t understand the way the Amish forgave her husband and the out pouring of love for her and her family. She asked, “How can you forgive?” She prays each day for the strength to forget what has happened to them.
A PBC member sent me an email after watching this movie: “This is nothing compared to murder but that statement has encouraged me to ask God each morning to help me forget what someone has done and stop the bitterness that wells up inside me toward them. It is so tempting to attack back or tell others the wrong that person has done to me. God answers with strength beyond myself to let those feelings go and gives me peace. I don’t know when I’ll stop remembering but I’m going to keep depending on Him and His grace.”
Here are some more quotes from the book. One man asks, “Why is everybody all surprised? It’s just standard Christian forgiveness; it’s what everybody should be doing.” A man named Eli said this, “Refusing to forgive is not an option. It’s just a normal part of our living.” Here’s a question. Is forgiving a normal part of your living?
We learned last week that love is more an action than an emotion. In a similar way today we’re going to be challenged that forgiveness is an action, not a feeling.
After the first service last week someone came up to me and told me about a sermon she had heard in which the pastor began with this question: What are three most important words in a marriage? She thought he was going to say something like this: “I love you” or the “Pack is back” but he didn’t. The three most powerful words in a family are: “Let it go.”
We could say it like this: Families that forgive know how to live. If you’re going to grow, you must let it go.
Before we begin I recognize that some of you have experienced pain or hurt or abuse or worse. I can’t imagine how you’re dealing with all that. This sermon may be very painful for you. One person, upon hearing what the topic is today, sent me this note on Facebook: “I have to admit I am dreading this message. I have something that is tearing me apart that I know forgiveness is the answer to, but I haven't figured out how to do it. I’m scared for Sunday to come.” I believe that this might be the day that you finally and fully forgive that person who has harmed you so much.
Prohibitions to Avoid
We’re going to land in Ephesians 4:31-32 this morning but I want to go back a few verses to set the context. We see some prohibitions listed in verses 26-31 that apply directly to families.
1. Don’t sin in your anger (26a). It’s possible to be angry and not sin but it’s also easy to sin when you are angry: “In your anger do not sin.” Some anger is righteous but for most of us, our anger is anything but right.
2. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. We see this in the second half of verse 26: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” The night before our wedding rehearsal, the pastor who married us challenged us with this verse, and I’m glad he did, though we’ve had some pretty late nights! One person put it this way: “Forgive your mate or stay up late!” The danger of anger is that it picks up steam if it’s not dealt with properly.