Summary: Unforgiveness is perhaps the best deadly strain of the sin of disease that we must destroy and inoculate against.
OVERCOMING THE FOUR “F”s: (UN)FORGIVENESS
There is a tremendous cancer in our lives that is eating us from the inside out. It is a cancer that penetrates deep inside each of us, sapping our strength, sucking out our joy, and spewing forth its poison in our veins - the poison of anger, bitterness, regret and squashed hopes. What is this cancer?
It is the cancer of un-forgiveness! Frederick Buecher puts it this way:
Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your
wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your
tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor
to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain
you are giving back - in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The
chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The
skeleton at the feast is you. (Wishful Thinking)
Is it, then, any wonder that critical, unforgiving people tend also to be guilt-prone people - and vice versa - people who struggle with guilt feelings are usually critical of others and tend to harbor resentment? By the way, if you yourself struggle with a critical spirit – you know it, don’t really like, but just can’t seem to help it – then I suggest you listen extra-carefully this morning and strongly consider that the core disease just may be unresolved issues of unforgiveness.
Friends, this cancer of unforgiveness is eating away at our hearts, our minds and our relationships! It is stealing our joy, our energy, and our hope! It must be stopped? But how?
The only way to eradicate this cancer is to. . .FORGIVE. Dr. Archibald Hart defines forgiveness as: “Surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.” Forgiveness is BIG! It can also be quite evasive and difficult for us to wrap our minds around the concept – it is so contrary to our nature and raw emotions.
Illus: “Greased Pig” champion at Barclay Farms. Forgiveness is often like that greased watermelon in the pool. It’s hard to get a grip on it. The harder you try, the more you squeeze, the more slippery it gets. Every time it is dropped it becomes increasingly more difficult to grab onto again. We must wrestle for it, and there are always others who will try to take it away and prevent us
completing the task.
Christian therapist and author Everett L. Worthington, Jr. describes it thus:
People use the term “forgiveness” loosely and mean different things. . .
It is more than just relinquishing judgment to God or simply accepting the hurt
and letting it pass. True forgiveness occurs when those cold emotions of unforgiveness are
changed to warm, loving, compassionate, caring, altruistic emotions resulting from a heartfelt transformation. Forgiveness is both an act and a process. It could be compared to canceling a debt. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. It takes two to reconcile; it takes only one to forgive. (Soul Care Bible, pg. 1520)
What, then, is forgiveness? Archibald Hart defines it as “surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.” The Grief Recovery Institute presents one of the best definitions I have encountered. It has helped fundamentally open my eyes to true forgiveness. And I have seen it work similarly with many others!
Forgiveness Is Giving Up The Hope Of A Different Or Better Yesterday!
This is true no matter how you may have been hurt, violated, betrayed, disrespected, abused or abandoned (physically, emotionally or spiritually)! In every case, big or small, recent or long past, minor or major, the greatest obstacle to our recovery through forgiveness is the refusal to give up the hope that the offending occurrence had been different or better. As long as we continue to dwell on these things, we imprison ourselves to the unchangeable past and bind ourselves with the heavy chains of old emotional and spiritual scars: anger, bitterness, hopelessness, pain, regret, guilt and perhaps even revenge. Sometimes, we direct these emotions to our offender and sometimes upon ourselves.
We MUST forgive, no matter the situation and regardless of whether or not there has ever been any apology, recompense, punishment or reconciliation. Why?: I Forgive . . . That I Can Be Free!
So how do we find forgiveness and how do we forgive?
Illus: A Sunday School teacher had just finished a lesson on Christian living. “Now, Billy,” she asked, “tell me what we must do before we can expect to be forgiven for our sins?” Without hesitation, Billy replied, “First we gotta sin.”
Billy has a point there, but then what? Let us look to God’s holy Word.
BACKGROUND: It all began with the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responds by warning about leading others to sin, and telling the parable of the lost sheep about how God will go to great lengths to pursue even one who is lost in sin. Jesus then continues to present a strategy for achieving conflict resolution with one who is thought to have sinned.