Summary: Just what does it mean to forgive others?
In our last time together, we began to look to our passage for today to answer the question, “What does it mean to forgive?” We made two observations. We said that forgiving others means . . .
1. Forgiving them repeatedly; &
2. Choosing to forgo revenge.
Now today, I want us to consider three other things that forgiving others means.
3. It means extending to others what God has extended to you.
What has God extended to us? Mercy & Grace. Mercy is my not receiving what I deserve - punishment. Grace is my receiving what I do not deserve - justification - (just as if I never sinned).
That is what I am to extend to those who offend me if I am to forgive them. Mercy - I do not demand they be punished and Grace -
I allow them to go on just as if they had never offended me.
Unforgiveness, on the other hand, is about revenge. It’s about me gaining “satisfaction” in someone else experiencing loss. It’s about
demanding that the other person “pay” for what they have done to us.
Unfortunately, what happens is that we “pay” instead, as a result of being in bondage to bitterness. We may get some small sense of
satisfaction, believing that our bitterness or resentment is doing some good for us. But in reality, it is doing harm to us instead.
In 1880, James Garfield was elected president of the United States, but after only six months in office, he was shot in the back with a revolver. He never lost consciousness. At the hospital, the doctor probed the wound with his little finger to seek the bullet. He
couldn’t find it, so he tried a silver-tipped probe. Still he couldn’t locate the bullet.
They took Garfield back to Washington, D.C. Despite the summer heat, they tried to keep him comfortable. He was growing very weak. Teams of doctors tried to locate the bullet, probing the wound over and over.
In desperation, they asked Alexander Graham Bell, who was working on a device caned the telephone, to see if he could locate the metal inside the president’s body. He came, he sought, and he too failed. The president hung on through August, but in September he finally died - not from the wound, but from infection. The repeated probing, which the physicians thought would help the man, eventually killed him.
So it is with people who dwell too long on their wound and refuse to release it to God. Consider the wisdom of the following proverbs:
“Whoever opts for revenge should dig two graves.” - Chinese proverb
“Not forgiving someone is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” - Anonymous
Forgiveness is risky, but it is the only road to freedom. The other road always leads to self-destruction.
The fact is, the nature of the forgiveness we have received has excused us from being punished for our sin; and that’s the way we are call upon to forgive others.
4. It means choosing to obey the command of Christ.
Forgiveness is intentional, it is not just a matter of emotions, just as it is with love. We cannot just love when we feel like it. We can’t just love people who we feel love for. We have to choose to love. If people relied on feelings of romantic love to keep their marriage alive then no couple would be married longer than a year. There comes a time when you have to choose to love, even when those emotions are not there in order to keep you going until those feelings return.
Think about mothers with their babies. They probably don’t feel very loving when their child is covered with all sorts of bodily fluids and is crying uncontrollably; but in those times the mother chooses to love their child anyway.
Likewise, forgiveness is a choice we make in response to the command of Christ. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus made it clear that you forgive even when you don't feel like it in verse 22, “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’”
How do you forgive the same person seventy-seven times? Not by feelings, I assure you. You do so out of the conviction that God has
forgiven you by choice and because you are responding to his love and forgiveness.
It’s a matter of deciding to obey God.
Clara Barton, founder of the American Red cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years
before. But she acted as if she had never even heard of the incident. “Don’t you remember it?” her friend asked. “No,” came Barton’s reply, “but I distinctly remember choosing to forget it.”