Summary: Talk about the stumbling blocks to forgiveness (Material adapted from Dr. Paul Coleman's book, The Forgiven Marriage)
A. Linda gave up her college career because her new husband wanted her to stay home. She obliged him. Six months later, she had an abortion because her husband told her they weren’t ready to become parents. As Linda’s resentment grew over the next year, so did her loneliness. He protested that she was growing distant from him. She struggled to keep the marriage alive by trying to please him. He then complained she had no mind of her own. Infuriated, she threatened a marital separation, hoping he would begin to appreciate her. He presented her with a letter from his lawyer and shacked up with a woman he had been flirting with at work. Linda had to take a job in fast food to support herself. In between bouts of depression and anxiety, Linda cursed her husband’s name and refused to forgive him.
We feel for Linda, this is just wrong! However, over time, Linda’s lack of forgiveness will not injure her husband but herself. Some people say that forgiveness is not fair. It is the same as looking the other way and letting the guilty person go unpunished. We have all taken an unforgiving stance after being hurt. We may feel strong and righteous when we withhold forgiveness, but such feelings pale in comparison to the price we pay.
Need to understand that the blocks that prevent us from forgiving are within us. When we tell ourselves we must not forgive because the hurts are against us were too great, we are really telling ourselves that the person who hurt us has set the guidelines for forgiveness. We give the guilty party power over our lives and we injure only ourselves.
Thesis: Talk about the stumbling blocks to forgiveness
Vengeance only adds to the pain, with each side feeling justified to counterattack, thereby making any kind of reconciliation impossible. Vengeance can convince us that our acts of retaliation are caused by the other person. After all, we would have never done what we did if they hadn’t hurt us first, or so the reasoning goes.
After Linda’s husband filed for divorce and left with the other woman, Linda set out on a vindictive course of action. She sought to fight him legally and take away every material possession she could possibly get, even more than she saw necessary. She felt he needed to be punished. But Linda’s strong retaliatory approach hurt her in the long run. As long as she focused on the damage her husband had done to her, she never evaluated and owned up to her own weaknesses and fears. It was as much her decision to leave college and have an abortion as it was her husband’s. We feel justified in seeking revenge.
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:19-21
What if this person still commits this sin? What is this person still commits the same crime? Difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Talk more about this next week. When people are committing crimes, they need to be prosecuted so that this will not happen again. “I forgive you, but you have to give back what was stolen.” “I forgive you, but I am not going to be alone with you again.” “I forgive you, but your crime cannot stay unpunished.” Need to remember that Romans 13 comes after Romans 12:19-21.
One of the greatest obstacles to forgiveness is pride. Do not allow pride to interfere with opportunities to accept or offer forgiveness. To seek forgiveness means to admit that we’ve done something unspeakable that needs to be forgiven, and thus both parties must swallow the same thing: their pride.
Twice in NT- God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. For true forgiveness to take place, pride must be taken out of the way. A proud heart will never truly forgive. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14, 15, NIV. This really does sum up a prideful heart. We cannot be forgiven if we are too proud to forgive someone else.
“I caught my husband making love to another woman. He swore it would never happen again. He begged me to forgive him, but I could not—would not. I was so bitter and so incapable of swallowing my pride that I could think of nothing but revenge. I was going to make him pay and pay dearly. I’d have my pound of flesh. I filed for divorce, even though my children begged me not to. Even after the divorce, my husband tried for two years to win me back. I refused to have anything to do with him. He had struck first; now I was striking back. All I wanted was to make him pay. Finally he gave up and married a lovely widow with a couple of small children. He began rebuilding his life—without me. I see them occasionally, and he looks so happy. They all do. And here I am—a lonely, old, miserable woman who allowed her selfish pride and foolish stubbornness to ruin her life. Unfaithfulness is wrong. Revenge is bad. But the worst part of all is that, without forgiveness, bitterness is all that is left.