Summary: We need to know when we have forgiven others and how forgiveness is given.
Breaking the Chains of Unforgiveness
INTRODUCTION: There is much misunderstanding about what forgiveness really means. Like the story about a pastor who visited a man who had been active in the church, but, due to a dispute with a fellow member, he had stopped coming to church. He reasoned with him at length about the need for forgiveness and returning to church. Reluctantly, he agreed, and then they prayed together. When the pastor was leaving, he followed him to the car and said, "Now, I’ll forgive him, but all I want is for him to stay on his side of the church, and I’ll stay on mine."
Unforgiveness robs us of our friendships, it steals our joy, it keeps us focused on the past, it saps our energy to live in the present.
How Do We Know if We Need to Forgive?
We need to forgive if we find ourselves thinking about an offense with no outside prompting. In other words, we bring up the subject to others or to ourselves for no apparent reason.
Let’s begin with a way to know when real forgiveness has happened: Forgiveness has taken place when we no longer dwell on the offense.
We must stop bringing up the offense to the offender, others or ourselves. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, (NAU)
If we have really forgiven someone, or covered it in love, we will not brood about it. Forgiving is a type of forgetting. Jeremiah 31:34 . . . declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (NAU)
Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins. (NAU)
Literally NOT REMEMBER means: 1 to remember, recall, call to mind. 1a (Qal) to remember, recall. 1b (Niphal) to be brought to remembrance, be remembered, be thought of, be brought to mind. 1c (Hiphil). 1c1 to cause to remember, remind. 1c2 to cause to be remembered, keep in remembrance. 1c3 to mention. 1c4 to record. 1c5 to make a memorial, make remembrance.
Let’s look at Luke 17:3-10 so we can learn when we should forgive.
When Should We Forgive?
Lk 17:3 1. When we start the process “rebuke him”
Luke 17:3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. (NAU)
Forgiveness seldom happens if we don’t start the process.
The word REBUKE means: to confront him with his sin.
So the first step to forgetting is remembering! If the offense is serious enough so that it occupies our thinking, then we must mention it to the one who has offended us.
This is hard. That’s why Jesus said, “Be on your guard!”
Paul places the burden on the one who knows about the sin. Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. (NAU)
Lk 17:4 2. Whenever forgiveness is requested “saying, I repent”
Luke 17:4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (NAU)
Forgiveness is not based on the person’s actions, just the statement alone. If someone were to ask forgiveness seven times a day his actions would seem to contradict his words, but we are to forgive anyway.
When forgiveness is requested, we must not only say we forgive, we must act like we have forgiven that person. When a disciplined church member told the Corinthian church he was repenting, Paul made it clear what they were supposed to do. 2 Corinthians 2:7-8 7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. (NAU)
Lk 17:5-10 3. When we are obedient “we have done only that which we ought to have done”
Luke 17:5-10 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. 7 “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9 “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’ ” (NAU)