Summary: Part 2 of 10 in a series dedicated to debunking commonly held myths that we think are in the Bible but really aren't, myths that can and often do have devastating effects on our faith.
INTRODUCTION: Forgiveness; just the mere mention of the word elicits a variety of feelings and reactions in us, some positive, some very much negative. Wrapped up in this word are feelings of joy and relief, and of consternation and even anger. Forgiveness is a word that indeed “moves” us…
BACKGROUND: Forgiveness isn’t an option; it can’t be stated any clearer than that! It’s a sacred duty demanded by Jesus by anyone who claims to be His disciple. In fact when He was questioned by Peter about it, His answer was stunning! (Matthew 18:21-22). Depending on the translation it’s either 77 times or 490 times… but the number isn’t the issue, our forgiveness of others should be limitless! Forgiveness is a foundational message of the Christian faith, forgiveness is love in action!
WHAT FORGIVENESS ISN’T
• Let’s begin with the obvious, yes this is one of those “captain obvious” moments – forgiveness is difficult, if it was easy everyone would do it and we would need to be having this discussion
• And on top of that the whole thing is made even more difficult by the fact that many people have never been shown what Biblical forgiveness actually looks like
• Society, and the church has bought into an endless number of ideas about what forgiveness is
• Most of them are just plain silly, but some of them are actually dangerous, not only to our relationships but also our faith, here are just a few;
• Forgiveness means… pretending that nothing ever happened
• Forgiveness means … a never-ending series of second chances
• Forgiveness means … a fresh start with all consequences and old baggage removed
• Forgiveness means … immediate and full restoration of a broken relationship, with all trust and privileges restored – and the one that gets us in the most trouble…
• Forgiveness means… Forgetting – wiping the slate so clean that the memory of the offence disappears!
• God forgives and forgets, therefore we must as well, because if we don’t God won’t forgive us! (Matthew 6:15)
• The problem with this statement is that it’s NOT how Biblical forgiveness works!
• So where do we get this crazy idea that forgiving means forgetting? Let’s look at a couple verses
• Well when we read verses like that it somewhat appears that scripture indeed teaches that forgiveness means forgetting,
WHAT FORGIVENESS IS
• When the Bible speaks of God forgiving our sins, and “remembering them no more” it means that God no longer responds to us in light of our sins, He no longer holds them against us, and they no longer derail our relationship with Him (Hebrews 9:22)
• God being an omniscient (all-knowing) God doesn’t forget anything!
• In fact the sins of others were recorded in scripture for our benefit (Moses, David, Peter etc.)
• One of most compelling stories of forgiveness is David, and his infamous tryst with Bathsheba
• When confronted with Nathan’s immortal words… “Thou art the man!” David fessed up
• Then everything was perfect and they all lived happily ever after right? Wrong!
• Though God didn’t hold those sins against David, there were still consequences, some hefty ones!
• David was informed that the “sword” would never leave his house, that he would always be at war
• That his son would dishonor him in public, like he dishonored Uriah in private
• The temple that he dreamed of building for God, would be built by another
• And the most devastating of all is that his son would die (2nd Samuel 12:13-14)
• God didn’t doom David to a life of hopeless regret, but gave him the opportunity to be something better, other than an adulterous murderer… a man after God’s own heart!
• Talk about second chances, Some of David’s most loved writings come after this event, recorded for us by God himself, and even quoted by Jesus! Now how’s that for restoration?
WHY IT MATTERS
• If we try to handle our forgiveness by simply forgetting, we will ultimately fail!
• There’s no other outcome when we follow that course, because like God, we don’t forget either
• Trying to forget the wrongs is like spray painting a rusty old piece of metal, it may look good at first, but the rust will break through, and the problem becomes worse than before
• It makes us angry, at others, and at God because it doesn’t fix the issue – so we give up!
• Remember when it comes to us forgiving one another it’s a process, sometimes a daily process – and for our microwave, we want it yesterday society, that’s a hard one!
WHAT IT MEANS FOR US
• First, forgiveness means releasing my right to retaliate – That’s why it’s difficult. Human nature is stimulus/response, cause and effect. I do unto you because you did unto me.