Summary: This message unpacks 4 of the common reasons that people do not persevere on the journey of forgiveness.
Text: Galatians 6:1, 7, 9.
- Our text sets the stage for what we want to discuss today.
- Verse 1 places before us the call to forgiveness. This passage actually can be used in a much broader way, but given our immediate context this morning we’re dealing with the way this text applies to restoring a person who has done something that requires our forgiveness.
- Verse 7 reminds us, as relates to forgiving, that if we choose to sow seeds of anger and bitterness, there will be an inevitable harvest of anger and bitterness in our lives. Forgiving is not just about what happens in the other person’s life; it’s also about what happens in our life.
- Verse 9 calls us to not grow weary, to be persistent, to finish the job we’ve begun. It is the call of verse 9 that will be our focus this morning.
- We’ve talked over the past couple of weeks about why to forgive (see “Why In The World Should I Forgive, Anyway?”) and how to forgive (see “How Do I Forgive Him? How Do I Forgive Her?”). This morning we’re going to talk about some of the keys to finishing the task we’ve started.
- Too often someone will have a moment when they are willing to forgive and they speak words of forgiveness, only to be surprised three days or three weeks or three months later when feelings of hurt, anger, and bitterness again well up in their heart. Thinking we’ve done something wrong in the way we forgave, we allow that moment to send us off the path of forgiveness down a dead-end detour.
- We don’t want to find ourselves down a dead-end detour, so this morning we’re going to identify some of the most common ones with the hope that by knowing them you can avoid them and you can finish the job of forgiving.
Dead-End Detours To Avoid:
1. Dead-End Detour: “It only counts if I do it and I’m done with it.”
- We think, “If I say it and I mean it, then I’m done with it.” Thinking that, we’re surprised (and feel a little bit betrayed) when three months later the bitterness has resurfaced. Forgiveness, we figure, has failed. . . and down the dead-end detour we go.
Key To Not Getting Sidetracked: “Forgiveness is a journey, not an event.”
- These are serious injuries we’re talking about. That means that they are not something we can quickly brush off. That means they are things our mind is going to come back to.
- To say in a moment, “I forgive,” is not to finish the job, but to begin the journey.
- You will have to stand by that commitment time and again when the pain resurfaces or when the bitterness wells up again. This is especially true if the person you’re forgiving is a family member or co-worker - someone who you’ll see on a regular basis. Inevitably, sometimes seeing that person is going to cause those old feelings to rise. In those moments, you must again face the bitterness, pain, and anger with the reality: “No, I will not give into those feelings; I have chosen to forgive and I am still choosing to forgive.”
- Forgiveness happens slowly and we need to have a sufficient commitment that we will continue to forgive as the thoughts come to the surface in the future.
- Think of a heavy bell (one like the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia). Like a bell rings out, so we proclaim the hurt we’ve felt to all who will listen to us. We have two choices: we can refuse to forgive and continue to ring out the sound of our pain and bitterness; or we can choose to forgive and let go of the rope that controls the bell. Now, the thing about a heavy bell is that after you let go of the rope, it has sufficient weight and force that it may continue to ring for another ten minutes - more and more slowly, more and more lightly, but ringing nonetheless. When you forgive, you let go of the rope. There is sufficient weight and force to the memory of the injury that it may continue to ring in your mind for another ten months or another ten years - more and more slowly, more and more lightly, but ringing nonetheless. You must choose, each time it
rings, that you are again forgiving.
- So, this morning, don’t get sidetracked by the thought that if the pain recurs then you must not
have really forgiven. You are on a journey. . . and, with God’s help, you will have the power to finish the journey.
2. Dead-End Detour: “It only counts if I forgive and forget.”