Summary: Forgiveness is important to Christians, but do we teach how to forgive, especially when we hurt so bad?
How can I forgive when it hurts so much?
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Much of this is simply from my heart today. It is my burden from God.
Ill. In one of my ministries, I served in an area where several of us pastors were convinced that the area was under demonic oppression. We met, discussed and prayed about this several times. As we compared notes and prayed together, we became convinced that the particular oppression that was bringing in captivity to the area was the spirit of unforgiveness. Nearly every major problem we faced as pastors and churches in that area dealt with unforgiveness and bitterness.
We committed to war against this oppression, and the only way we knew was to bring unforgiveness into the light of the truth. We began to study and preach forgiveness, as well as sharing with one another what we learned.
I preached a series on forgiveness and how it is expected and right for Christians to do. After a couple of months, I was visiting one of my dear Church ladies. She said, “Bro. Tim, I am so glad you stopped by. I wanted to talk to you about something. You have been preaching some good sermons about forgiveness. I am sure I can speak for the rest of the Church that we are convinced of the need to forgive. But how do we forgive when it is difficult? You haven’t told us how to forgive.”
You see, I had assumed that forgiveness was simply an issue of choosing forgiveness and letting go of the offense. Yet looking back into my life at those who had hurt me deeply, I realized that it wasn’t that simple. I still had issues and people who simply thinking about them raised my blood pressure. There were still negative emotions attached to their memories.
Since then, I realized that forgiveness is not just a major topic in Christianity, it is the hot topic.
I. Why is forgiveness important?
Every Christian I know believes in forgiveness because we cannot dodge the words of Christ. But few are the numbers who have been able to forgive their major violations, and who are not shaped by their wounds and pains. Few are the people who can love freely without restriction and without the fear of being hurt again.
I don’t believe it is a coincident that God became man, Jesus was born, lived, died and rose again for our redemption. The key component in that redemption was forgiveness. That was our greatest need before a righteous and holy God.
And I don’t think it is by coincidence that forgiveness is our greatest struggle even after we are forgiven. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the things that warp us the most and seem to be at the root of every other personality disorder, bad habit, and relational conflicts is bitterness and lack of forgiveness.
The best of Christians typically are carrying around wounds which should have healed years ago. The most mature among us are still shaped by events of the past and our improper reactions to them because we struggle with forgiveness. Broken marriages, difficult people, easily offended, eating disorders, anti-social behavior, quick temper, depression, abuse of alcohol and narcotics, addictions of every kind, mistakes in raising children, hypocrisy, the list is endless of the notches on the handle of bitterness and unforgiveness.
It is not for a lack of desire. We have the heart of God and truly want to forgive anyone who hurt us when it comes down to it. It is not for a lack of trying, for we all try to forgive and live free from the influence of past offenses. And it is not for the lack of asking God to help us, for I have heard people pray and pray for the ability to forgive and not let an incident change them.
Hosea 4:6 says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” In this passage, God warns that preachers and teachers (the priests of those days) have failed to give the people the information needed to live righteously. I carry a great responsibility this morning and confess, I am still on a journey in learning about how to forgive like God forgives. But that responsibility impels me to share what I know now, even though it is incomplete knowledge. I am praying that God continues to teach me forgiveness and that I can continue to teach you forgiveness.