Summary: This message focuses on what King Solomon says about our willingness to forgive others.
I Choose Forgiveness
Scripture: Proverbs 16:6; 28:13; 17:5, 9; 24:17-18; 10:12; Eccl. 7:21-22
At 4:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon I sat down at my desk to finish the sermon that I had been working on for this morning. I had been working on the next message in my series on the names of God when the Spirit spoke to me and told me that message was not for this morning. So I had to start all over with what God was giving me, this message on forgiveness. As a Christian and a pastor, I will admit to you that there are times when I struggle with forgiving others just like everyone else, but there are choices that all of us must make. I can tell you that forgiveness is necessary for everyone regardless of whether you’re a Christian or not. As a Christian we know that we have been commanded to forgive, but this morning I want to approach this subject from the eyes of one of the smartest men that ever walked the earth – King Solomon. King Solomon offered some very specific advice as it relates to forgiving others and of we can find our way to do as he says, our lives will be enhanced because we shed the weight of unforgiveness that tends to weigh us down.
I. When We Need Forgiveness
Before we examine what Solomon says about our forgiving others, let’s examine a couple of things he says about how to obtain genuine forgiveness when we have wronged someone else. Although these Scriptures will apply to our relationship with God, I only want us to consider them this morning in light of our relationship with one another. So let’s begin with Proverbs 16:6. “By lovingkindness and truth, iniquity is atoned for and by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.” (Prov. 16:6) In this verse King Solomon says that lovingkindness and truth opens the door for forgiveness. When you do something that harms someone else, especially if it was intentional and you knew what you were doing, being truthful about it and walking in lovingkindness (some translates this word as faith) towards that person will not only open the door for us to be forgiven, but it will also allow us to move beyond the guilt we feel because of what we did. Now keep this in mind as we look at what he says about what happens when we try to hide or cover up a wrong done. Turn to Proverbs 28:13.
“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” How many of us have ever did something and tried to hide it and when the truth finally came out we initially lied about it? This is a common practice in the world – deny, deny, deny until we can no longer deny! However, Solomon makes it clear through the wisdom that God gave him that the quickest way to restore prosperity to a relationship is to admit the transgression and not to do it again. By confessing it (not hiding or lying about it) the door is open for forgiveness to start – providing that we repent and not repeat the wrong. Again, truth will always open the door to forgiveness where as a lie will not only close the door but will keep the door close the next time when we are actually telling the truth – and yes I am speaking from painful experience!
II. Rejoicing In Other’s Problems
The next area I want to address pertains to our rejoicing when someone who wronged us experience hardship and/or pain. I am sure that most of you have never looked at someone who wronged you and was happy that they were finally getting what was coming to them. Well, I have been there and I was very spiritual about it. On the outside I was trying to be ministerial and holy while on the inside the thoughts ran through my mind that they were getting what they had coming to them. But let me share with you what King Solomon had to say on this subject. Please turn with me to Proverbs 17:5.
“He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.” (Prov. 17:5) Some people would refer to this as sowing bad seeds and you getting in return what you gave out (rejoicing in someone else’s problems and thus you have problems of your own.) The first part is not about forgiveness, but I can’t read it without commenting on it. What Solomon says here is that those who snub their nose or looks down on the poor reproaches God. In other words when we treat the poor badly (not only in what we say or don’t say to them, but just our general attitude that they are beneath us) it shames God and He will not be pleased with us. After this point is made, Solomon stresses that the person who rejoices in calamity will not go unpunished. This verse paints the picture of one of our enemies falling on hard times and we’re happy about it. We actually rejoice and think that God is punishing them because of how they have treated us. But let me share with you the other side to this coin. Turn to Proverbs 24:17, 18. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it and be displeased and He turn away His anger from him.” We should never, even when dealing with the worst person we know, wish harm upon them. If you read what Jesus said in Matthew the fifth chapter, you will find that He spoke of forgiveness and not taking revenge on someone who harms us. We have all offended someone else so as we seek forgiveness let us be the first to also offer forgiveness. This also applies when we hear, live or through others, something negative that someone has said about us. King Solomon gave some interesting advice pertaining to our being easily offended.