Summary: Forgiveness - A look at 1) The need for forgiveness,2) The alternative to forgiveness, and 3) The power of forgiveness!
Today we are going to look at forgiveness. It is perhaps pertinent, following recent events in London, (London bombings) that we try to engage with such a subject; As the emotions and distress of shock start to give way to feelings of anger, resentment & bitterness. But hopefully we will see that forgiveness is a necessary part of life, especially for those called to follow Christ.
Having said what today’s sermon is based on, let me say what it is not! Firstly, it is not an exhaustive sermon on all aspects of forgiveness
The minister and author Elizabeth O’Connor writes…
‘Despite a hundred sermons on forgiveness, we do not forgive easily, nor find ourselves easily forgiven. Forgiveness, we discover, is always harder than the sermons make it out to be’
I can tell you that I find this subject amazing – it strikes me that there is such power in forgiveness, the like of which I personally am only starting to discover. So that is a second NOT – Today’s sermon is not preached by someone who feels particularly qualified to claim any sort of expertise in this area.
But I hope that together we get an opportunity to explore this area of forgiveness, through a series of stories and quotes, which I trust God’s H.S will graciously seek to minister into our hearts.
3 points for us to consider…
1) The need for forgiveness,
2) The alternative to forgiveness,
3) The power of forgiveness.
1) THE NEED FOR FORGIVENESS
Most people in the world today recognise some need for forgiveness. They may be very conditional as to who and why people should be forgiven and in what circumstances. But in the eyes of most societies there is a place for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is required at all levels in our world. We saw justice and forgiveness at a national level in South Africa, following years of repressive apartheid regime, when South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up.
Part of the South African PROMOTION OF NATIONAL UNITY AND RECONCILIATION ACT, 1995 says that ‘...the Constitution states that there is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation…’
A whole country previously exposed to many forms of violence and abuse, when change of regime comes, acknowledges the need for truth and forgiveness. Perhaps they may have been inspired, in part, by the words of Martin Luther King, who said…
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”
Forgiveness is also required at a personal level.
Many years ago, I was involved in organising the Farnborough ‘March for Jesus’, whilst at one of the preparation meetings I met a very Godly woman, who had been an overseers of missionaries in Africa, along with her husband, for over 40 years. They traveled around offering support to the other missionaries in the field. She told me a true story of what had happened one day on the mission field....
Lady missionary came to them....She said that she couldn’t feel close to God and she had seen several miracles but nothing ever happened involving her....it was getting her down. My missionary friend and her husband invited her around for dinner. When she arrived they learnt she couldn’t eat most foods! She had had eating problems nearly all her life. They talked all evening and made no progress.
She was invited back....but before she came God revealed to my friend and her husband the cause of the problem. So when the lady missionary returned they prayed with her and revealed that God had said it was connected with her mother....lady cried.....said that she had always hated her mother (who had died several years ago) because of things she’d heard her say about her......The couple said that she had to ask for forgiveness.. she did...and cried heavily....and left with a heavy burden removed.
As I sat there with that 70+ year lady in a pew in St Peter’s, you should have seen the wonderful smile on her face, as she told me of how she and her husband met the lady several months later and she shone! Her live was completely changed!
The power of forgiveness had transformed her life.
Like the woman in the gospel story we had read to us. She too understands something of forgiveness. As she cries at the feet of Jesus she is experiencing the reality of forgiveness. It is a lesson to all in that room as Jesus is touched by her love for him.
The power of forgiveness still transforms lives. And the need for forgiveness is as great as ever.
2) THE ALTERNATIVE TO FORGIVENESS – VENGEANCE?
When we look at recent events in London, we are already at the stage of analysis – of Psychologists, lecturers, experts in various fields trying to understand why a group of young people, born and bred in West Yorkshire should want to blow themselves up and kill and injure so many people, bringing hurt and distress to hundreds of people.