Summary: This may be the hardest of all the one another commands. However, forgiveness is not only possible it is necessary for us to be the church Christ has called us to be. This sermon examines the practical steps we can take to make forgiveness a reality.
Forgive One Another
We read in Luke 23, “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals- one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”
Much of what we have seen so far in our study of the New Testament’s one another principles, has been fairly easy to swallow. Ideas like loving one another, accepting one another, greeting one another, and teaching one another seem so nice. They make us feel warm and fuzzy. Most people will readily agree that those are pretty good ideas.
But this morning we look at a one another passage that puts the warm and fuzzy to the test.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
Now here’s the thing. It’s not that we don’t like the idea of forgiveness. In fact, we all want to be forgiven. When it comes to our own failures and shortcomings, we think that forgiveness is a mighty fine idea. However, when someone else has hurt us, betrayed us, talked behind our backs, then we’re not so keen on forgiveness. When we’re the injured party, we want revenge, not mercy. We tend to see our own wrongs as little faux pas, but the sins of others are great injustices that must be accounted for.
Though forgiving one another may not be easy. It is necessary. You see, none of the other one anothers will work without this one. It is only through forgiving one another that we will ever be able to accept one another, encourage one another, greet one another, or serve one another.
With all of these calls to love, acceptance, harmony, and encouragement you might think that Paul has a naïve or idealistic view of the church. No, Paul’s view of the church is not unrealistic, nor is he ignorant about human nature. The church is not a fairytale utopia, where we never hurt each other, and live happily ever after. In calling us to forgive Paul acknowledges our failures and shortcomings. He recognizes there will be times when we are not loving, not accepting, and not encouraging. In fact, sometimes we are hateful, judgmental and disheartening. That is why we must learn to forgive.
There is one thing I can guarantee if you are a part of the church. You will get hurt. That doesn’t sound like a very nice thing for a pastor to say, but it’s true. If you are a part of the church, you will get hurt. Let me be more specific. If you are a part of this church, you will get hurt. If you know me long enough, I will hurt you.
Why do I say such things? Is it because I’m cold hearted, or we’re a mean bunch of people? No. I say that because we are all sinners. Where there’s sin, people get hurt. We may all be forgiven, but we are still struggling with sin. We’re still growing. We’re on our way to where God wants us to be, but we’re not there yet. The church is full of imperfect people. As Jeff Walling says, “We’re all messed up people. That’s why we need a Mess-iah.
If you’re looking for the perfect church, you can give up the search now. You won’t find it. It doesn’t exist. And if you do find it, don’t join it, because after you join it won’t be perfect anymore. You might as well join us here. We’re already a bunch of imperfect sinners. It’s popular today to say, “I love Jesus, but I hate the church. It’s full of hypocrites. Yep. Come on in. One more won’t hurt.
Ken Sande in his book, Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, observes, “Christians are the most forgiven people in the world. Therefore we should be the most forgiving people in the world.” You might think so, but we’re usually not. Christians are a most divided people. One group will have nothing to do with the other. Christians say hateful and hurtful things. Disgruntled and bitter members hop from one church to another. There are many people who have been wounded deeply in the church. There are some of you here this morning that are carrying some deep scars that were left there by other Christians.
Forgiveness may not be easy. In fact, sometimes forgiveness may be the most difficult thing we can do, but we desperately need to do it. We can never be a one another church unless we learn to forgive one another. But how can we learn to forgive?
One lady wrote in a letter after being cheated on by her husband. Two years later she was still hurting deeply and she struggled with anger. She writes, “I am told that forgiveness is the answer, that I need to forgive him, but I don’t know how. I am not even sure that I want to forgive him, but even if I did, I’m not sure what to do.”