Summary: "To err is human, to forgive is divine," Alexander Pope. Being divine, Jesus displayed His forgiving heart. He can enable us to have a forgiving heart, just like His.
A. The story is told of a man who stood watching an old farmer plowing with his mule.
1. After a while, the stranger said to the farmer, “I don’t like to tell you how to do your job, but you could save yourself a lot of work by saying, ‘Gee’ and ‘Haw’ to that mule instead of just tugging on those reigns.”
2. The old farmer pulled a big handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his face.
3. Then he said, “Reckon you’re right, but this mule kicked me five years ago and I haven’t spoken to him since.”
4. The moral of this story is: Withholding forgiveness often hurts us more than it hurts the one we refuse to forgive.
B. Did you know that yesterday was National Forgiveness Day?
1. Yesterday, October 29th was the 6th Annual National Forgiveness Day.
2. You say, “What is National Forgiveness Day”? Well, it is a celebration of unconditional love where people are encouraged to take time to repair, restore, rebuild and revive damaged relationships using the process of unconditional love and forgiveness.
3. Annually, it is the last Saturday in October.
C. I was also interested this week to discover something called The Forgiveness Project.
1. The Forgiveness Project is a UK-based charitable organization which explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution through real-life human experience.
2. The Forgiveness Project’s highly acclaimed exhibition called The F Word, shows all too clearly that forgiveness means many different things to different people. It is deeply personal, often private and far from the soft option many take it to be.
3. The stories on The Forgiveness Project’s website show that often forgiveness is difficult, costly, painful – but potentially transformative.
4. The website says: Above all, forgiveness must be a choice because to expect someone to forgive can victimize them all over again. Forgiveness is also a journey and not a destination: in other words it is rarely a one-time, fixed event or a single magnanimous gesture in response to an isolated offence. It is part of a continuum of human engagements in healing broken relationships.
5. Many of those whose voices are celebrated in the exhibition and on the website, also share their stories in person. They work in prisons, schools, faith communities, and with any group who wants to explore the nature of forgiveness whether in the wider political context or within their own lives.
6. The Forgiveness Project has no religious or political affiliations.
D. I find it very interesting that even those who may not be religious understand the importance of forgiveness and of having a forgiving heart.
1. One of the greatest attributes of Jesus is His forgiving heart.
2. Jesus often pointed out that He had not come to condemn, but to redeem.
3. This is remarkable because Jesus, being the only perfect and holy person who ever lived, is the only person who has the right to condemn.
4. All of us have failed in so many ways, and we have done wrong countless times. Yet as imperfect as we are, when we come to Jesus, we know we will not be despised but accepted, not spurned, but loved.
E. This is the heart of Jesus we see in the Gospels.
1. We saw it at its best on the cross when He prayed for His enemies, “Father, forgive them!”
2. Is that how we usually treat those who have offended us or hurt us?
3. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to cultivate a heart of forgiveness like Jesus’ forgiving heart? –
4. This is certainly the kind of heart that the Lord wants us to cultivate.
5. Let’s read again Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
6. In Peterson’ paraphrase The Message, he renders it this way: “Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.”
F. God’s will for us is clear: Bear with each other and forgive each other.
1. To bear with someone means to be patient with them; to be longsuffering with them; basically to attempt to put up with them; to endure them.
2. To forgive each other is pretty straightforward. And when we qualify it with “as the Lord forgave you,” then we really have a challenge!
G. There is no question about the fact that we are going to be in situations where we will need to bear with people and forgive people.
1. Those times will surely come, if they haven’t already.
2. The big question is: What will we do when those times come?
3. When we find ourselves in conflict with people, or when they have hurt us or are difficult to get along with, then we have three possible responses: