Summary: The freedom of forgiveness or the bondage of bitterness is a choice we make
FREEDOM OF FORGIVENESS
COLOSSIANS 3 VERSES 12-17
“I had a brother once, and I betrayed him.” With these words, African writer Laurens Van der Post begins a wonderful book The Seed and the Sower, (I recommend you read it). The story is of two brothers from small South African village. The elder brother is tall, athletic, good student and a natural leader. The younger brother was not. He had a back deformity and was very sensitive to the fact. He had a beautiful singing voice. They both attended the same private school. One night some of the older boys dragged the younger brother out and ripped off his shirt and made fun of his deformity until he cried. They threw him into an abandoned water tank and forced him to sing. The older brother was aware of what was going on but did nothing to rescue his younger brother. The younger brother survived but with a crushed spirit. He returned to the family farm and lived a reclusive life and never sang again. During World War II the older brother had a dream in which he realised he had been Judas to his younger brother. He makes the incredibly difficult journey back to South Africa and asks his brother’s forgiveness. Later that night in the dark of the night he hears a beautiful sound – it is his brother singing a song that the older brother had written when they were boys. Please do buy the book and read it, it is truly an excellent read. Why did I begin a sermon with such a story? Because this morning I want to address the issue of ‘Freedom in Forgiveness.’ I am not going to spend any great length of time preaching to you this morning about the forgiveness of our sins by Christ – I am going to assume, rightly or wrongly, that you know about that from my sermons over the past nine years. This morning I am going to concentrate on Colossians 3 verse 13 (Read) and on this line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
In that story the younger brother had a choice to make when his older brother asked his forgiveness. He could forgive him or he could hold on to the hurt, bitterness, resentment and anger and refuse his forgiveness. But let me ask you a question – who is held captive then? In the prison of resentment, bitterness, anger and revenge who is really in the prison? If he held on to bitterness whose soul was paralysed? Whose mind held in bondage? Whose emotions frozen? If the younger brother decides to hold on to the pain, to the resentment and the desire for revenge all he will gain is self-centred pain. In the films the bounty hunter always rides alone and truth be told “who wants to be friends with someone who settles scores for a living?”
Holding on to the bitterness of past hurts is like knowing how to ride a bicycle without knowing how to stop. You just continue to pedal, on and on, afraid to stop, unable to stop but desperately hoping that someone pulls the brakes and gets you off. And what if you get revenge then what? Is justice satisfied? Are you released from all the pain? Does the resentment disappear? Does the open wound suddenly close over and heal itself? So this morning I want to give you some Biblical advice about the Freedom that is found in Forgiveness and is only found in forgiveness. Turn with me for a moment to Colossians 3 verses 12-17.
COLOSSIANS – Paul wrote to the church at Colossae around AD60 to refute some false teaching. He never explicitly mentions the false teaching but from the letter we can deduce that it contained ceremonialism, asceticism, angel worship, secret knowledge and a reliance on human wisdom and traditions over and against the gospel of the free grace of Christ.
Look at verse 10 of chapter 3 – we see there that the Christian has already put on the new self in Christ through regeneration, i.e. through being born again. Therefore when we turn to verse 12 we read Paul pointing out the practical outworking of this change in the believers life because of Christ Jesus. He must clothe himself with new garments, the garments of grace which befit a new creation in Christ. Look at what he says to them in verse 12. Chosen by God – you are the elect. Holy – that is set apart by and for God. Deeply loved by God – is that not the most wonderful phrase your soul has ever heard? How many of us today long to know we are deeply loved? This is Paul’s simple formulae for saying who they are in Christ. Then he outlines in the second part of verse 12 five great virtues of this new creation which should be evident in their lives as believers.