Summary: Everyone gets hurt by others. Instead of jumping into the common ungodly responses to this, step into the benefits of forgiveness.
Benefits of Forgiving
Pastor Eric Hanson
Everyone gets hurt by others. Ungodly responses to this include the following four.
1. Retaliate against the person or persons so as to hurt them in return. This action can range from speaking sarcasm, to expressing anger, to violence, or even to murder.
2. Tell others about what the person of persons did to you, when these others do not need to know this. The telling of others can be anything from close friends on up to everyone whom you can get to listen to your complaint.
3. Withdraw from your relationship with this person or these persons, either secretly or by announcing your withdrawal. Simply abandon the marriage, church, friendship, etc.
4. Curse the offending party(ies) in your thinking and in your prayerlessness toward them; or even by praying against them, as in asking God to be negative toward them. You can also curse the people who have offended you, by telling other people of your disdain and low expectations for them.
There are three arenas where negative, destructive responses to hurt come from.
Processing all of this
The real test for us in the arenas of thoughts, words, and actions is not when things are going great in our relationship with someone. The real test comes when the betrayal happens, when the false accusation comes, or when abandonment takes place. It is then that we enter the crucible of obedience. Either the flesh will be in charge and will retaliate, and/or lapse into self hatred or hatred toward others, or the new man in Christ will be in charge, and will obey the scriptures we read earlier, and will receive the approval of God.
Remember what these people were going through when all these instructions were written. Property was being lost, including homes. Prison awaited some of them, and some were even soon to be murdered. If any of us are facing misunderstanding, or even false accusations and the gossip mill, it is pretty mild by comparison. Even if family members or strangers have stolen our goods or money, made promises to us which have never been kept, or other done other such low down things, it is not on the same level as the wrongs being faced by the first century readers of the New Testament.
Some believers in Jesus have grown bitter over such things as doing something good for someone, and then that person or family was not properly grateful. Others have grown bitter when they have lent to someone who did not pay them back, or when one sibling cheated the others out of an inheritance. Now, let’s consider what Jesus had to say about these things. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do that. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:32-36) God’s word is the standard here. Our sensibilities about fairness are not the standard for love and for forgiveness.
Corporately, the greater Church can even act in such a redemptive way, such as when believers sacrifice to send food and medicine to some Muslim land which is experiencing famine. Paul wrote “If your enemny is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)
Now when we live this way, forgiving those who offend or even harm us, and demonstrating love toward both the person who keeps falling short, and the person who is an actual enemy, we obey God’s word and we turn God loose to act freely in the situation and inside of our own hearts.
I believe that the benefits of forgiving are many and powerful. Between the scriptures from last week’s message, and those from this week, we can glean some important ones to consider.