Summary: When it comes to wrongs committed against us these are the two choices we are faced with. We can either continue to hold grudges and resentments and spend our life justifying our ill feelings (relive) or we can choose to put these to death and move on (fo
RELIVE OR FORGIVE
INTRODUCTION: I titled my message relive or forgive because when it comes to wrongs committed against us these are the two choices we are faced with. We can either continue to hold grudges and resentments and spend our life justifying our ill feelings (relive) or we can choose to put these to death and move on (forgive). Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes we say we’ve forgiven but we find ourselves reliving the past and we conjure up old wounds that show we really haven’t moved beyond the offense. Is forgiveness really possible? How can we truly forgive and move on?
1) Do we want to forgive? Sometimes we want to carry around the wrongs committed against us. It gives us justification for why we think and behave the way we do. “Don’t blame me. It’s not my fault I act this way.” We proceed to tell the story of whatever it was that caused us damage in the past that we still use for excuses today. I’m not minimizing past traumas you may have suffered at the hands of someone else. These events can cause some lasting damage that can take a long time to work through and overcome. But are we purposely holding onto anger and resentments with an attitude of vindictiveness? ‘I don’t want to forgive; I want to get revenge.’ Malachy McCourt said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Are we harboring and justifying our vengeful spirit or are we willing to acknowledge that it’s wrong and make a real attempt at correcting it? If we are going to move toward forgiveness we need to ask ourselves, “Do I want to forgive?” C. S. Lewis said, "We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it."
2) What if they aren’t sorry? What do we do when someone has wronged us but they don’t ask us for forgiveness? What then? We often feel that we don’t need to forgive someone who hasn’t asked for it. If they’re not repentant, then I don’t need to forgive them. Did Jesus wait for repentance from those who were at the cross? No, he asked the Father to forgive them despite their attitude and behavior. Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” But wait. Jesus asked the Father to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. That’s not my situation. The people who wronged me know they did wrong. They don’t seem to care. They even feel justified. I’m still supposed to forgive them? In an article by R.T. Kendall titled, ‘Forgiving the Unrepentant’, he recalls an incident that happened to him. “When I was minister of Westminster Chapel in London, the people who had betrayed me didn’t think they had done one thing wrong. You could have hooked them up to a lie detector, and they would have passed with flying colors. My old friend, Josif Tson, whom the Communist government of Romania imprisoned and beat for his faith, came to me with the sobering words: "R.T., you must totally forgive them; unless you totally forgive them, you will be in chains." Once you forgive in your heart, it ceases to be an issue whether they repent or not. The blessing I got personally from this has been immeasurable.” Forgiveness has a lot more to do with you than it does with them. Forgiving someone doesn’t let them off the hook; it let’s you off the hook. It frees us from the chains of bitterness, pain and resentment. Lewis Smedes- “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.”
· Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be an absence of consequences. 2nd Samuel 12:13-14 (set-up). God forgave David for committing adultery with Bathsheba but the consequence of his actions remained. The child born out of their sin died. When someone wrongs me, I can forgive them but that doesn’t mean things should stay the same. If you steal from me, I can forgive you but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let you housesit for me. If someone abuses my trust I can forgive them but there will most likely be an increased amount of accountability thereafter. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean I’m excusing their actions. I’m not saying what they did was okay. I’m not pretending the wrong never occurred. What it does mean is that I’m making a conscious decision to move forward. Forgiveness isn’t about removing consequences; it’s about removing offenses.
3) How can I forgive?
· I can forgive because God has forgiven me. Eph. 4:31-32. Are you perfect? “No, but I haven’t done what they did.” Maybe not, but you have done other things that are likely to be just as serious in God’s sight. And sometimes, the wild reality is that we have done the same things but we take offense when it’s done to us. We justify, minimize, and rationalize our behavior, but when that same behavior is exhibited toward us, suddenly it’s a major offense (ex. -cut off in traffic, talking about someone, lying). Lord’s prayer, ‘forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us’. There was a young lad who, upon reaching this part of the Lord’s Prayer, misquoted it yet he truly captured its essence. He said, “and forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” We begin our journey by receiving forgiveness from God. We continue our journey by giving forgiveness to others.