Summary: The fifth sermon of a post-Easter series on Love.
(Slide 1) It was a conversation that has stuck with me over the years. I was not a part of the conversation, per se, but I was a part of the audience that listened. I think that it took place in 1986 but I cannot remember. It was, I remember, a Sunday night at the church where I was serving as a youth pastor.
A woman who had grown up in the church was now, along with her husband and children, returning not just to the church but the Christian faith. They had joined a cult and as they found out more and more about the cult, they realized that it was not true Christianity and began the journey back to the faith.
A retired pastor whose daughter attended our church stood to ask a question. ‘Did something happen that caused you to leave this church?’ I remember the woman’s expression changed and she quietly, almost sheepishly, said ‘yes.’
It turns out that a disagreement or misunderstanding with a high school friend (and current church member) had taken place surrounding a wedding. I cannot remember the details but I remember that it had to do with a conflict over who was going to be what, in that particular wedding. Yet whatever it was had caused a good friendship to facture and a young women (then) had left the church. When this conversation ended, the two friends embraced in our presence and were reconciled.
The other day one of my on-line friends, who I think was having a tough day wrote, “I’m pro "go to bed angry." You can’t force agreement/restoration. Things look different after some time.” Is she right?
As we near the end of our post-Easter series on love, we have to address the issue of forgiveness. Our main text for this morning is Luke 6:27-28: (Slide 2)
“But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.
Rick Warren offered his congregation this true/false test.
• T or F A person should not be forgiven until they ask for it.
• T or F Forgiveness includes minimizing the offense and the pain was caused.
• T or F Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship.
• T or F You really haven’t forgiven others until you have forgotten the offense.
How do you answer those? Let’s take a few moments to examine these statements.
(Slide 4) ‘A person should not be forgiven until they ask for it.’
First of all, can anyone tell me if this view is supported in the Bible?
I cannot recall anywhere in the Bible that this view is supported. In fact, in Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus makes clear the necessity of forgiveness without delay. “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.
That is a very pointed statement and, I don’t know about you, but it makes me uncomfortable sometimes. If forces me to ask, “Have I forgiven those that have ‘sinned against me?’” Have I forgiven those that have offended me and hurt me? Or do I still hold _______ against them?
Let’s go to the next statement.
(Slide 4a) ‘Forgiveness includes minimizing the offense and the pain that was caused.’
Again, is there Biblical support for this?
In Colossians 3:13 we read, “You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
But are we to stuff our pain and minimize the offense? And by offense, I am not talking about those minor irritations that we all get and give to others. I am talking about the ones that really hurt from the words of a friend or family member that wound us to the actions of someone that threatens or harms us.
A few weeks ago, we were told that one important way to love God with our hearts was to tell God how we feel. That is nevermore true than when we are struggling to forgive someone who has deeply hurt or wounded us.
What about the next statement?
(Slide 4b) Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship.
Is there Biblical support for this? Certainly there is!
In Matthew 5:22 and 23 we read, “So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”
I want to read this passage again.