Summary: This is a deeper study to go alongside of the Sermon on Learning How to Forgive. It can be used as a handout with a small group as you discuss how to learn better and exercise the grace of forgiveness.
"Caring For God's People"
"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." - Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
― Lewis B. Smedes, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve
Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair. Perhaps someone called you stupid or put your down. Perhaps someone even hurt your physically, emotionally or sexually. All of these cause wounds that can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance.
We all can find ourselves automatically shaking our heads in agreement when we hear of someone stating that they will not forgive after they have been harmed; especially if that harm has been suffered by a child. And yet, forgiveness is one of the main centerpieces of Christianity and is one of the wonderful ways we can help ourselves and others.
As followers of Jesus we all have as one of our life's goals to be:
1. A forgiving person
2. To learn how to be better at forgiving
3. Learning how to forgive a particular hurt.
Scripture is clear that we are to be both forgiven and forgiving.
Matthew 6:12 - "and forgive us our debts (sins) as we also have forgiven our debtors (those who have sinned against us)" - ESV
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant - Matthew 18:21-35
Parable of the Prodigal Son - Luke 15:11-32
Peter's Question and Jesus' Answer - Matthew 18:21-22
Jesus' Premier Example on the Cross - Luke 23:34
Stephen's ability to be like Jesus - Acts 7:55-56
What is Forgiveness?
The Bible uses several words for forgiveness:
Old Testament - The words "forgive" and "forgiveness" in the Old Testament of the English Bi¬ble1 are the translation of three Hebrew words, namely kaphar, nake and saletch. All three words have the similar meanings - to cover, to purge, to pardon, to lift someone up.
New Testament - There are four main words used in the original Greek New Testament in relation to the forgiveness or pardon of our sins or crimes against God. These are the verb “aphiemi”, its associated noun “aphesis”, “charizomai” and “apoluo”. Like their OT counterparts, each conveys meanings of letting go, canceling a debt, set free, release, pardon etc...
Some modern day incorrect definitions of forgiveness:
a. Forgiveness means forgetting
b. Forgiveness means excusing the person for having done something wrong
c. Forgiveness means realizing that the person was justified in their sinful act(s)
Everett L. Worthington, Jr. helps us with defining forgiveness as part of a 2 step process:
1. First of all there is DECISIONAL FORGIVENESS
"Forgiveness which involves declaring that one is not going to seek revenge or avoid the other person but will do his or her best to get along in the future."
Decisional Forgiveness is what we see spelled out in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35
Decisional Forgiveness is usually governed by a sense of duty, accountability, responsibility, desire to please and obey God. This kind of forgiveness is usually given as we respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, as we worship and read God's Word.
Decisional forgiveness is when we make a deliberate and conscious decision to forgive someone of an act or acts which bring an injustice into our lives. Decisional forgiveness does not deal with the emotions. It is what we do because we know this is what we should do as Jesus' disciples.
2. Secondly, there is EMOTIONAL FORGIVENESS
"Forgiveness that involves a change of heart in which one replaces negative emotions of resentment, bitterness, hostility, anger, hatred and fear with more positive emotions toward the person such as empathy, sympathy, compassion and love."
As you can easily understand, emotional forgiveness while related, is at times much more difficult for us to possess and exhibit. It is easier at times to make the decision to forgive than it is to actually change our hearts and emotionally forgive.
Emotional forgiveness is a process and a journey - Emotional forgiveness changes over time. We all have to deal with our emotions when it comes to forgiveness. It is easy just to slip into an emotional attitude of unforgiveness. However, the Bible shares with us that unforgiveness will imprison us. For example, one of the ways we know we are still in the process of forgiving or that we are still in the process of unforgiving is:
1. Does the mere mention of a person's name flood our minds with ugly images and thoughts?