Summary: First of a three-part series on forgiveness, this is meant to help people get a better grasp on what forgiveness is really all about by covering some of what it is and what it isn't.

Forgiveness – What It Is, What It’s Not

Ephesians 4:32

March 7, 2010

General intro:

Forgiveness is one of those topics that can really get people going.

And usually it’s because they think they know what it’s all about so they’re waiting for the pastor to confirm what they think about it.

But I’ve found that many people don’t understand forgiveness and end up believing all sorts of unscriptural stuff about it.

So we’re going to be spending the next three Sundays on this very important topic. And you’re going to want to be here for each of these messages, because I think God wants to change some hearts in here, and change some lives in huge ways.

God: Today’s message isn’t going to contain a lot of Scripture. Usually we go through a passage or string some verses together, but today I want to use one verse as a stage to discuss just what forgiveness is and what it’s not.

And I want to make you aware that we’re talking primarily about the forgiveness that needs to happen between people, although we will be discussing the forgiveness of God as well.

So let’s look at this main verse, and I’d ask you to read this aloud with me.

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Okay, so we have this piece of Scripture from God’s Word, and it’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

The problem is that there are a number of misperceptions of what forgiveness is, and before we can really put this passage into practice, we need to make sure we understand what this thing is really all about.

So let’s see if we can grasp what forgiveness is and see if we can dump what forgiveness is not, so we can make this Scripture real in our lives and be obedient to it.

We’re going to move through these pretty fast, because I want to get to another part of the message that will help us apply this, so hang on, okay?

What forgiveness is NOT:

> Forgetting.

Nothing in Scripture supports the idea that forgiving means forgetting.

When you forgive, you don’t automatically get a spiritual brain lapse about whatever that was.

We’re supposed to quit dwelling on it and letting it control us, but some people have been hurt so badly that they will never be able to forget it.

Now, for some people, it’s not that they’ve been hurt so badly, it’s just that they’re nursing that hurt and holding onto a grudge. The Bible calls that sin, by the way.

So even though forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting, it does mean choosing to quit remembering it so often.

> Excusing the sin.

You’re not pretending nothing happened and that everything’s just okay, because that’s not true. Something did happen, and everything’s not okay.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you just excuse the sin. You acknowledge the sin and the hurt, but you refuse to let that sin and hurt be a permanent barrier between the two of you.

> Reconciliation.

Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is healed up.

It’s a great step forward on your part, but reconciliation is a two-way deal, while forgiveness is supposed to be given even if the other person never responds.

Here’s something forgiveness isn’t and many of you wouldn’t have thought of this, but here it is: Forgiveness isn’t…

> Fair.

“It’s not fair for me to forgive that person – he hurt me too badly.”

I understand your emotion about that, at least to a degree.

But believe me - you don’t want fair, at least not in your own life. Fair is you going to hell for your sins. Fair is Jesus saying, “No thanks, Father. I’ll just let them die in their sins – that’s what they deserve.”

Forgiveness isn’t fair. It’s not fair for Jesus to forgive you. And your sins hung Jesus on the cross. That’s not fair.

We could talk a lot about stuff that forgiveness isn’t, but we need to move on and look at what forgiveness is:

* Refusing to hold a grudge.

Forgiveness means releasing the hurt because hanging onto it is really only hurting you.

Wipe the books clean and move on with that person. Ask God to take that hurt and turn it into love for that person.

Not easy, but it’s better than the poison that’s brewing in your heart when you hold a grudge.

* Unconditional.

I’ve mentioned before that we don’t wait to offer forgiveness until it’s asked for. We give it freely and unconditionally.

When Jesus was hanging on the cross He forgave His killers and none of them were asking for His forgiveness.

And that leads to the last thing I want to mention about what forgiveness is, and that is that it’s…

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