FORGIVENESS IS NOT AN OPTION
Preached October 25, 2009
The mother of four young boys often had difficulty curbing their energy, especially in church. But when her minister preached on "turning the other cheek," the boys gave him their undivided attention. “No matter what others do to us,” he said, “we should never try to ‘get even.’” That afternoon the youngest boy came into the house crying. Between sobs he said he’d kicked one of his brothers, who then kicked him in return. "I’m sorry you’re hurt," his mother said. "But you shouldn’t go around kicking people." Still choking back tears, he replied, "But the preacher said he isn’t supposed to kick me back."
Which brother do you most identify with? Was it the one who did the kicking or the one who got kicked. Truth be told, I think more than a few of us would like to have been the one who kicked back!
Many of us can tell stories of being hurt. Maybe it was a lie spoken by a friend; You may have been hurt because the Pastor broke a promise to meet you at Tim Horton’s, even though he was busy ministering to a family that just lost a loved one. Perhaps you felt betrayed by a family member.
I think we al know someone who just cannot let go of the past. Some of the hurts happened 10, 20, 30, even 40 years ago. When you listen to some you would think the offense occurred last week!
It is not hard to understand how people ca hold on for so long a period of time. After all, you and I both know that internal wounds are much more serious than external ones. For example, you don’t remember the cuts, scrapes, and bruises you got on the playground as a kid, but I bet you remember the painful words that were said to you. We remember emotional wounds a lot longer than physical ones. Why? Because we rehearse those hurts in our mind over and over again. We replay the tape over again in our minds.
I do not mean to make light of your hurt or pain. There is not a person in this room, who has not been affected by the pain of hurt, betrayal or offense.
All I am saying is, that’s the wrong way to respond. In fact it’s dumb. Jesus said that He came to give us abundant life. The one thing that will hinder a person from living in that abundant joy, is resentment, bitterness, and anger cause by holding on to offense.
Why would you want to miss out on God’s best for your life by holding onto your past hurts?
How does a person who has been hurt let go, and let God? You know you should let it go, but you hold on to the hurt as tenaciously as a dog holds on to a piece of steak.
P.S. There’s only one way to get past your hurt and pain: The only antidote for those hurts is forgiveness.
Would you take your Bibles and turn to Colossians 3:12-14. Read along with me as Paul gives some sage adviceto the believers,
12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
In order toknow what it means to live a lfe of forgivness, you must first of all understand,….
1. God loves you and has chosen you as His own special people
In verse 12 of this passage, God commands that we “clothe” ourselves or literally, that we ‘put on’ or “envelope” ourselves with some new clothes. Paul is not talking about physical dress. He uses this metaphor to contrast the believers life now with how he lived before becoming a Christian.
Look at verse 5, Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Paul Paul reminds the Colossian believers that,
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Paul uses the image of clothes to emphasize the change of life, focus and direction the believer has in following Christ.
In “The Message”, it says it this way: “Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you
If you have truly submitted yourself to the lordship of Jesus Christ in your life, then you are called to gladly wear the wardrobe that He has picked out for you.
So why should you wear them? Because you have been chosen by God.
This reminds me of when I was young and the neighborhood gang was choosing teams for softball. The choosing ritual usually ended with team captains fighting over who WOULD NOT get me on their team.
It’s a wonderful thing to be chosen. Some people will do almost anything to be chosen. It is almost humiliating to not be chosen.
Why has God chosen the believers? In Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Moses reminded the people as to why they were chosen by God
It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Did you hear what God says. It is not because of anything that you and I have earned or feel we deserve. We are chosen, simply because God loves us. Isn’t that amazing?
(1 Pet 2:9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
God has chosen you to be a part of His team, and He doesn’t make mistakes. He chose you because He saw something in you that no one else could see.
The purpose of our choosing was to be HOLY. Holy means “set apart for a special purpose”. People that are set apart for a special purpose live differently from the rest of the people around him. They live pure lives. God chose you because He sees great potential in you. Do you want to be like everybody else, or do you want to be special and reach the great potential that God sees in you? If you want to reach the place that God has for you, then you have to dress differently. You belong to a different family. You must dress in the wardrobe of that family. You wear the uniform of the one who chose you because He saw something in you that no one else could see.
As A Christian you and I have bee chosen by God to be holy because he LOVES YOU! In addition to being chosen and set apart, The NIV says you are DEARLY Loved by God.
GOD LOVES YOU! Before we can understand the power of forgiveness, we need to get the fact of Father God’s love, for us.
An early church father and theologian Augustine said, ‘, "He loves each one of us, as if there were only one of us."
I read this story that illustrates the fact of Father God’s love;
When the small daughter of the distinguished sculptress, Sally Farnham, was once asked which child was her mother’s favorite, the little girl, according to Francis Newton in "This Week," promptly replied: "She loves Jimmy best because he’s the oldest; and she loves Johnny best because he’s the youngest; and she loves me best because I’m the only girl!" It would be difficult to find a better illustration of God’s all-embracing love for His children. It is wonderful to know that God loves us personally, no matter what our experience has been. His love transcends every barrier, and each one of us is most precious in His sight. ( Sermoncentral.com/illustrations/ Richard A. Rentfro )
Let me ask you, do you know His love for you? I don’t mean do you mentally understand or acknowledge His love. Have you personally experienced His love? Have you felt the Loving arms of your heavenly Father embracing you?
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, ….
2. We are to reflect God’s character
12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
ESV12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
compassionate hearts, The opposite of this would be someone who is cold and heartless, someone who is concerned only with himself. A compassionate person is someone who wants to help the people around him. What’s going on with the people at church? What’s going on with my family? What’s going on with the people at work? My neighbors? My friends? Is everything OK? What can I do to help you?
kindness, Kindness includes not only saying nice things, but doing nice things. Kindness is going above and beyond the call of duty to help someone out.
humility, Humility means that you recognize your own weaknesses. You don’t think about how great you are.
meekness, or gentleness as it is translated in the NIV is the opposite of road rage. Gentleness is the opposite of the man who is ranting and raving at the customer service counter in the store.
and patience, The Greek word here contains the idea of being patient in unpleasant circumstances.
• When the gas station attendant has no clue where the oil stick is in your car.
• When the person at Tim Horton’s gives you a double double when you asked for a large black coffee.
• When the mechanic tells you that you need a new air filter, even though you just put a new one in your car last week.
No matter what the circumstance, you are patient with the people around you, even in trying circumstances.
Some people argue, What’s the big deal about forgiveness anyway? Listen to me , forgiveness is a big deal.
3. Forgiveness is a big deal
What does the Bible say about forgiveness? Write down these verses;
Matthew 6:14,15 "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 18:21, 22 Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Followed by the parable of the ungrateful servant).......35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Luke 6:37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Luke 17:3, 4 So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ’I repent,’ forgive him."
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
This command is aain repeated by Paul to the Colossians in 3:13, 13Bear with each other and forgive…
The alternative to forgiveness is bitterness and resentment. Dale Carnegie tells about a visit to Yellowstone Park where he saw a grizzly bear. The huge animal was in the center of a clearing, feeding on some discarded camp food. For several minutes he feasted alone; no other creature dared draw near. After a few moments a skunk walked through the meadow toward the food and took his place next to the grizzly. The bear didn’t object and Carnegie knew why. "The grizzly," he said, "knew the high cost of getting even." [House of God p. 122]
People who refuse to forgive, hurt themselves. Bitter people are no fun to be around. They can’t sleep. Ulcers line their stomach. Their blood pressure rises. They see the negative in every situation because their life is polluted with these feelings of resentment and anger. People who are unwilling to forgive may feel that they are punishing the other person but the only person paying the price is themselves.
But, Pastor you don’t know how I have been hurt. I don’t want to forgive. I want to strike back. I want justice. I want the other person to know the pain they inflicted. And if I can’t have justice I will never have a relationship with that person again.
Listen I am not saying you are not hurt. I would not want you to think that I don’t care. The truth is,
4. Forgiveness is not easy
Verse 13 says, 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.
A grievance is a legitimate reason to be upset with someone. If someone promises to pick you up at 2:00, and they forget and leave you standing out in the cold, you have a grievance. If someone promises to help you clean up the kitchen, but instead they fall asleep on the couch, you have a grievance. I’m sure we all could come up with a list of legitimate reasons why we are upset with certain people.
The Bible gives an alternative reaction. 13Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong…
The NLT translates verse 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
What does it mean to forgive a person? Forgiveness releases us physically and emotionally, it also releases us SPIRITUALLY. One of the greatest barriers to effective prayer and spiritual vitality is an unforgiving heart. An unforgiving heart binds the Holy Spirit’s ability to work. It becomes a barrier to effective and fruitful ministry. An unwillingness to forgive disrupts our fellowship with God. It steals from us the joy of knowing His forgiveness in our lives.
Are you having trouble praying with power? Could it be that there is someone you need to forgive?
Try an experiment on the pain of bitterness and the pleasure of forgiveness. Take your right hand and make a tight fist. Squeeze as hard as you can. After only a few seconds it will become painful. Imagine what it would feel like to maintain that tight grip for days, weeks, months, or years. That’s what unforgiveness does to your heart. You may not feel it physically, but when you hold onto the sins and shortcomings of others, it hurts you. Remember, the word forgiveness means “to release.” Go ahead, release your fist, doesn’t it feel better? That’s what forgiveness can do for you.
This is why it is essential that, you Forgive as quickly and completely as the Lord forgave you.
5. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Lord forgave you.
The last part of verse 13 says, “Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”( NLT)
Jesus, our Lord, could have many grievances against us. All the things that Jesus wants us to do, and we don’t do them. All the things that Jesus doesn’t want us to do, and we do them. But Jesus forgives whatever grievances he has against us.
One of the most common picturesof forgiveness is the picture of a loan officer. He sees the debt you have piled up – your credit card bills, your car loan, your mortgage, your other bills. And that loan officer tells you that as of right now, these bills are wiped off your account. As of right now, you owe nothing on your credit card bills. No more car payment. No more house payment. You are debt-free.
That’s how Jesus forgives you. He wipes all that sin out of your account. And Jesus holds no grudges. Jesus doesn’t say to you, “I forgive you for what you said to your wife the other day, but I’ll remember what you did.” No, Jesus forgives you, and forgets. It’s as though it had never happened. No grudges. He does not hold it to your account. That’s how Jesus forgives you.
And that’s how Jesus wants you to forgive the people around you. Sure, you have legitimate reasons to be upset with people sometimes. But forgive, Jesus says. Forgive the way I have forgiven you. Completely wipe that grievance out of that person’s account. And hold no grudges. No “remember when you did that” type conversations. Forgive completely. Forgive like Christ.
In order to truly forgive someone, you must make FOUR PROMISES:
1. I choose not to think about this incident. Remember, it’s impossible to forget it, but you can choose not to think about it.
2. I do not want to harm you for this incident. This is your willingness to release them from your desire to take revenge on them. People often misunderstand this point. If someone committed a crime against you, forgiveness doesn’t prevent you from allowing the law to execute justice. But forgiveness requires you do not personally become the judge, jury, and executioner for what they’ve done.
3. I will not bring up this incident again. This promise would heal many marriage wounds. One husband told a friend, “When my wife and I argue, she gets historical.” His friend said, “Do you mean hysterical?” The husband said, “No, she gets historical–she brings up all the mistakes I’ve ever made.” When God forgives our sin, he buries them in the depths of the sea and he never goes fishing for them. When you forgive someone, don’t keep resurrecting the incident.
4. I will not allow this incident to stand between us. True forgiveness wipes the slate clean and a broken relationship can be restored. That’s what happens when God forgives us. Our sin has separated us from God and His forgiveness removes the wall of separation so we can have a personal relationship with Him.
A couple Sundays ago I told you the story of Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie. Corrie Ten Boom was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II because her family provided a hiding place for Jews when they were being arrested. She and her sister Betsy were sent to Ravensbruk where horrible torture, rape, and death occurred on a regular basis. Betsy died in the prison camp, but Corrie miraculously survived. She became an effective Christian author and speaker. In 1947 she was invited to speak in Munich, Germany. That evening, she spoke on the topic of forgiveness–how God buries our sins in the depths of the sea. After her talk she was approached by a man who looked familiar to her. With horror she recognized him as one of the cruelest guards at the concentration camp. She remembered the shame of walking naked in front of this very man. Suddenly all the fear and hatred returned in a flash.
He said to her, “In your talk you mentioned Ravensbruk. I was a guard there. But since that time, I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from you as well, Fraulein.” He held out his hand to Corrie and said, “Will you forgive me?”
Corrie wrote about that encounter:
“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me.
And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. (Tramp for the Lord, pp. 55-57)
Like Corrie Ten Boom, we have been offered forgiveness by Father God, so we should be willing to forgive others. We can’t do it alone, but with God’s power, we can forgive those who have hurt us. Do yourself a favor, if someone has wounded you, don’t let them continue to torture you–release them with your forgiveness.
Lewis Smedes- To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you