Summary: A sermon on forgiveness (Two articles from Guideposts and Our Prayer.com are featured and adapted)
Sermon for 2/7/2010
Play the song “Live Like You Were Dying”- Focus on “I gave forgiveness I’d been denying. Oh, one day I hope you can live like you are dying.”
A. (Psa 90:12) Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
A. When I began this series I knew that I would dread when I came to this topic.
B. In 2008 I was asked to preach at two churches and I brought a message on the cross. Big part of the message was on forgiveness and how Jesus said, (Luke 23:34 NIV) “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." I asked people to pray for me that I would be able to forgive.
C. Since that time I have talked on forgiveness on several occasions. Really it was a plea and a prayer from me to be able to forgive.
D. The Lord is saying to me, “Today is the day.” This series has inspired me to offer forgiveness. I pray that it will do the same for you.
E. I have talked on this topic many times and I struggled on how to bring this in a new and fresh way today.
F. Over the past several weeks two articles on this topic really ministered to me. Today I bring them to you.
Thesis: Today let’s talk about forgiveness.
1. Forgiving when you can’t by Jeannette Williams
Her car had killed my husband, a school crossing guard. She had struck Tom down while he was on duty, helping the children. The investigating officer and witnesses had told me it was a “no fault” accident. I didn’t want to believe them.
In the sad, lonely weeks after the funeral, my thoughts turned again and again to this woman- blaming her, accusing her, resenting her.
One afternoon my preacher, Garth Steele, stopped by, “I’ve seen her,” he said. “She wasn’t speeding. She wasn’t careless. She was blinded by the low, glaring sun. It honestly wasn’t an irresponsible accident.”
“That’s what everyone says,” I replied. “I know I should feel sorry for her- that God wants me to-but I can’t.”
He patted my arm kindly. “When you can accept what’s happened, perhaps you can forgive. Please, Jeannette, ask God to help you.”
My angry feelings were still there a few weeks later when Brother Steele came back “I want you to go see her,” he said.
“See her?” My voice was shrill. “Why? I’m the one who’s alone- she has a husband! I’m the injured party.” I was hurting so much inside. “Is it wrong that I’m angry?” I finally asked.
“No, it’s human. With God’s help, you’ll work your way through this. You must pray about it.” He took my hands. “She’s a teacher. She loves children, the way Tom did.”
She loves children. The words echoed in my head long after he’d left. I tried to imagine the woman in her classroom- guiding, encouraging, concerned for her students. I sank into Tom’s chair and bowed my head: “Father, I can’t go on like this. I know You want me to forgive her. Help me have the heart to do it.”
The next day, God did. I was putting away some sympathy notes from Tom’s schoolchildren, and as I reread the caring messages, Tom’s favorite bible verse slipped into my mind: (Eph 4:32 NIV) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
My preacher had asked me to pray, and I had. Now, I found, I was ready to try the thing that God seemed to be asking me: Be Kind.
Brother Steele phoned ahead, and the following morning I walked up the brick path to the woman’s house. She had a frail look and her face was drawn. We sat down stiffly. At first it was difficult for both of us to talk, and then she began to tell me how her heart went out to me, and how miserable she was. She was afraid to drive a car now, she couldn’t work, and she couldn’t eat. Could it be, I wondered, that she was suffering even more than I? And then I heard my own voice blurt out: “I know you didn’t mean to hit my husband.” Her lips trembled. “If only I hadn’t left home that day!”
Without thinking about it, I put my arms around her. “I forgive you,” I said. “Now you must forgive yourself.” And, with God’s help, she did.
In this experience, I see 4 guidelines that may help someone else who “can’t” forgive.
1. Face the situation as honestly as you can and ask for God’s help. David and Psalms
2. Remember that God wants you to forgive. In fact, He commands it. (Col 3:13 NIV) Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.