Summary: A detailed look at forgiveness - part 3 of 4.
February 14, 2010
For the past 2 weeks we have been looking at what it means to forgive another person. It’s not an easy topic to talk about because if we were to be really honest, forgiveness hurts, but you know what . . . unforgiveness hurts ever more.
I can’t believe it took us . . . or maybe I should say, I can’t believe it took me 4 weeks to make it through anger and now we will talk about forgiveness for a total of 4 weeks. This is just how important these two areas are in our lives. We deal with issues of anger and forgiveness just about everyday. Some are minor blips in life, others are major areas. So, let’s just jump in as we take a quick look at where we were at the end of last week’s message and move forward.
The first thing we must be able to do in order to forgive another person is . . .
Admit you have been hurt.
It sounds almost too simplistic, but if you can’t admit you’ve been hurt, then you can’t forgive. If you haven’t been hurt, then there’s nothing to forgive. Most normal people don’t like confrontation or conflict, we pretend that what another person did or said, doesn’t bother us, but until we’re willing to admit we’ve been hurt, we’re not in a place where we can begin to pursue forgiveness.
We need to be objective and that is not easy when something is personal, but we need to be objective when we examine our hurt. As I’ve told you, sometimes I will talk to a trusted friend or Debbie about a situation, and that helps give me gain perspective, as I consider my own feelings.
Secondly . . .
Surrender your right to get even.
Christian writer Philip Yancey wrote the following in his book called, What’s So Amazing About Grace ~ "At last I understood: in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy” (page 93).
One of the statements I have come to really believe in is, “Grace Hurts.” Grace hurts because we don’t want to extend it to anyone who has wounded us. We sit on our pride, expecting the other person to ask for forgiveness, while we refuse to forgive and it eats at us. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son, and the father’s grace for the young rebellious son? It was so difficult for the older son to accept the father’s grace. Why? Because grace hurts. We don’t always think the other person deserves to be forgiven. They should have to suffer, to beg and grovel, just so we can feel a little stronger, and they a little weaker. But God, who is just like that father, promises us that as long as we ask from our heart, He will forgive us.
German theologian Helmut Thielicke said, “This business of forgiving is by no means a simple thing. . . . We say, ‘Very well, if the other fellow is sorry and begs my pardon, I will forgive him, then I’ll give in.’ We make forgiveness a law of reciprocity. And this never works. For then both of us say to ourselves, ‘The other fellow has to make the first move.’ And then I watch like a hawk to see whether the other person will flash a signal to me with his eyes or whether I can detect some small hint which shows that he is sorry. I am always on the point of forgiving. . . but I never forgive. I am far too just.” (Yancey, page 81) How true this is for many of us, we stand on ceremony waiting for the other to apologize.
But as Yancey says, forgiveness is really an act of faith, our faith in a loving God. If we want to be generous givers of forgiveness, then we need to be generous receivers of God’s forgiveness. And folks this is so crucial. We have been forgiven over and over and over, and then over and over and over again and again and again by a . . .
God who loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for you and me so that we would not suffer in hell, but we would live in eternity with Him.
That’s John 3:16. Even in John 3:17, Jesus added, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” What a blessing we receive from a God who believes in us as His children.