Summary: Need forgiveness in 4 areas
Not far from New York City there is a cemetery where there is a grave which has inscribed upon the headstone just one word- “Forgiven” There is no name, no date of birth or death. The stone is undecorated. Just one word- “Forgiven”, but that is the greatest thing that can be said of any person or written on a grave.
If given 6 months or less to live, a big issue is forgiveness
What is forgiveness? The word “forgive” is found 133 times in the NIV. The Greek root for “forgive” is grace. Jack Cottrell observes, “Whenever the Bible speaks of forgiveness, it is speaking of grace.” Grace is getting the opposite of what we deserve.
What does forgiveness mean to the terminally ill? Our social relationships give life meaning. Expressing love in final moments becomes a top priority. We cannot genuinely express love to someone against whom we harbor resentment. We must forgive and then express our love.
Thesis: Need forgiveness in 4 areas
Forgiveness of sins
“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38, NIV.
Corrie Ten Boom survived the harsh treatment in the Ravensbruck concentration camp where so many died under the Nazis in WW2. Corrie’s sister, Betsie, died in Ravensbruck. After she survived she wrote books on her experience and went all over the world proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. After one talk many people were coming up to her and expressing their appreciation. In this group of people Corrie saw him coming toward her. She wrote, “The man who was making his way forward had been a guard- one of the most cruel guards. Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’ And I, who had spoken so warmly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course- how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him. I was face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying. ‘I was a guard there.” No, he did not remember me. ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well, Fraulein,’ again the hand came out- ‘will you forgive me?’ And I stood there- I whose sins had again and again been forgiven- and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could have been many seconds that he stood there- hand held out- but it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. Forgiveness is not an emotion. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling Jesus.’ And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust out my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, brining tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then. But even then, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of God.”
Forgiveness sought and received from others
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13, NIV.
Remember one patient who told me about her struggles as a woman. Her first husband was a preacher but he left her for another lover. After this, she tried to find love with various men. She moved her son and daughter down south to be with a man. This man was abusive and was also involved in organized crime. Finally the patient had enough of the abuse and moved back to the midwest. This man and his associates, the mafia, were on the lookout for her and her family so they had to live undercover. During this time, the patient got a job and had to leave her son and daughter alone. The son was her oldest child and the mother told her son never to leave her sister. One day, the daughter was shopping and her brother became bored and went off with some friends. Coming out of the store, this young lady was abducted and raped. Amazingly, they let her go but the guilt of the mother remained. A few days before she died, my patient, this mother, confessed her involvement with the individuals who raped her daughter. The daughter had no idea of her mother’s involvement with these individuals but forgiveness was given and they were able to talk of this incident and let it go. As the patient lay unconscious the day before she died, the daughter told me of the confession and of her mother being able to lay this burden down. Difficult situation but think of the many years of regret and guilt this mother had to endure. Confess it now, seek forgiveness now. Not be easy but better than living with guilt and shame. The daughter could have held this against her mother. However, she did what the Scriptures said. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14, 15, NIV.