Summary: When Jesus prayed for the Father to forgive those who were mistreating him I said in the sermon a couple of weeks ago that if Jesus can forgive those who mistreated him then we can forgive those who mistreat us. It's not easy, but we can do it.
FATHER, I FORGIVE THEM
When Jesus prayed for the Father to forgive those who were mistreating him I said in the sermon a couple of weeks ago that if Jesus can forgive those who mistreated him then we can forgive those who mistreat us. But that isn't easy. No, but with the Holy Spirit living in us, we have the power to forgive as Jesus did. Let's delve into the subject of forgiveness.
1) Do we want to forgive?
That's the first question that needs to be answered when talking about forgiving others. C.S. Lewis said, "We all agree that forgiveness is beautiful idea until we have to practice it." Perhaps we don't have any intentions of forgiving those who've mistreated us. We feel justified in harboring the resentment and bitterness we feel.
Plus, we feel if we were to forgive it lets the person off the hook so we are fiercely opposed to even the idea of forgiveness when it comes to certain people. However, the irony is, when we choose to forgive it lets us off the hook. Malachy McCourt said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
It helps to see what having an unforgiving spirit does to us. Oftentimes, because of how we feel about the people that wronged us, we develop a negative attitude overall. Because of the combination of the wrongs that were committed against us with our reaction to them we've developed a cynical outlook on life.
However, being able to forgive causes us to put it behind us and move on. Not that we forget what happened, not that we say what happened was okay and not that we pretend the one who did these things to us is all of a sudden a great person, but when we decide to not hold onto that bitterness anymore we free ourselves from the venomous and destructive cancer that eats away at us when we harbor unforgiveness.
But wait, they haven't asked for forgiveness so why should I forgive them? Again, in recalling the sermon from two weeks ago, Jesus asked the Father to forgive his torturers yet they weren't asking for it.
But Jesus said, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. That's not my case. They knew what they did, they just didn't care. The ones who beat and whipped and crucified Jesus knew what they were doing and they didn't care. However, they didn't know they were killing the Son of God. They didn't know they were killing an innocent man.
The people who wronged us didn't know what they were doing from a spiritual standpoint. In our sin we're blind; blind to the severity of our actions. Yes, we had a sense of right and wrong but not with the clarity and conviction we experienced when we came to Christ.
When we were in the world we were desensitized to the gravity of our actions. But when we came to Christ, he shined the light on us and our sin and he showed us what it really looked like. And over time that light shines brighter to reveal more but those who aren't in Christ don't have that light; they can't see like we see. So, we need to take that in consideration.
In an article by R.T. Kendall titled, ‘Forgiving the Unrepentant’, he recalls an incident that happened to him. “When I was minister of Westminster Chapel in London, the people who had betrayed me didn't think they had done one thing wrong. You could have hooked them up to a lie detector, and they would have passed with flying colors.
My old friend, Josif Tson, whom the Communist government of Romania imprisoned and beat for his faith, came to me with the sobering words: "R.T., you must totally forgive them; unless you totally forgive them, you will be in chains." Once you forgive in your heart, it ceases to be an issue whether they repent or not. The blessing I got personally from this has been immeasurable.”
Forgiveness has a lot more to do with us than it does with them. Forgiving someone lets us off the hook and frees us from the chains of bitterness, pain and resentment. Lewis Smedes- “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.” We need to see the benefit that being able to forgive others brings us.
2) How do I forgive?
If we get to the place where we are willing to forgive, how do we do it? Being willing to forgive and carrying it out are two different things. It may be the most difficult thing you ever do. We can have a difficult time letting go of the past. Even though some of these hurts happened so many years ago, we talk about them like they happened yesterday. That’s how fresh they are in our mind.