Summary: How to move toward forgiving those who have hurt you the most over the years.
Forgiveness is hard. When somebody does
something that cuts our heart or damages our
feelings, it’s difficult to forgive.
But the difficulty of forgiveness is exponentially
harder when the person we are trying to forgive has
been in our life for years. A father or a mother, a
brother or a sister, a spouse or a child - when they
have acted in ways that are hurtful (not just one
time, but day after day for so long), how are
we to find the ability to forgive?
Paul Thigpen writes in Discipleship Journal of his
struggles to forgive his Dad of the years of hurtful
things that he had done. This morning, I have taken
our passage, adapted and applied the things that
Paul speaks of going through, and added some
additional ideas in order to deal with this important
issue: Making Peace With The People In Your
Paul Thigpen’s words for our outline and I have added my comments:
1. “I identified my father’s specific offenses.”
Rather than broadly stating that “Dad never liked
me,” Paul made a list of the specific hurtful things
his Dad had done over the years. This is a difficult
process, of course, to bring up many of those old,
painful memories, but it is necessary to understand
what you are forgiving.
What if that list is incredibly long? Is there a point
at which you are no longer required to forgive
because of the multitude of offenses? Vv. 21-22
indicate to us the answer.
2. “I confessed my own sins to God.”
Paul acknowledged that he had not been the perfect
child and that he had at times contributed to the
problems with his own attitude and rebellion.
Vv. 23-27 (especially v. 27) are important for us on
this point as we remember than any amount we
forgive someone is not nearly as great as the amount
that God has forgiven us.
3. “I asked God to show me my parents the way He
Vv. 28-30 speak of the servant having no pity for
the plight of his fellow servant. Often in our lives,
rather than seeing a broken and damaged person
(just like us), we see only someone who has hurt us.
As we begin to see the reasons God had pity and
compassion on them, perhaps we can begin to see
that person in a new way.
For Paul, it was thinking of a story his grandmother
had told him of his Dad selling firewood on the
street corner in the winter’s cold - a weary,
frightened young boy doing what he could to
support his poor family (that was not being supported well by his alcoholic father). That image helped Paul
see past the gruff, tough image he had of his Dad.
4. “I counted the cost of failure to forgive.”
Three price tags for our refusal to forgive:
a. bitterness in our hearts.
b. a burden on our backs as we carry our
c. disobedience to God (see vv. 34-35).
5. “I let go of my father’s offenses and canceled his
Paul went down the list of specific offenses and
chose to forgive/let go/cancel each one. Although the process is difficult, this is not optional for
the Christian. V. 35 makes it very clear that this is
what God asks of us, even when the list is very
It is, ultimately, the only way to find peace with the
people in our past.