Summary: Today's message looks at the doctrine of forgiveness, what it is and isn't, why we need to forgive, how we go about forgiving, and what then is confession and how that is the beginning of the forgiveness process.
The Healing Power of Forgiveness
How many think people in general are weird? Now, how many think others are weirder than you? Now, in my almost 70 years of life, one of the things I’ve learned is that we’re all weird, and a little bit odd at times, or for some, most of the time. And the reason is that within us all there’s an inner wierdo.
This is why we have a hard time with relationships, not only with others, but with God. Fortunately for us, God understands that we’re all relationally challenged, not only with others, but with Him. And this has been the way from the beginning.
• Cain, older brother of Able, got jealous because God accepted Able’s sacrifice while rejecting his. So, Cain murders his brother and also his relationship with God.
• And then there’s Noah. He gets so drunk that he passes out naked in front of his kids. Now, that’s really not something you’d see in Sunday’s school flannel graph lesson.
• Abraham ended up playing favorites between his two boys, Jacob and Esau, resulting in a bitter rival that has lasted to this very day.
• And Jacob never learned this lesson and ended up doing the same with his son, Joseph. So much to that his brothers got so jealous that they sold him into slavery, and then told their father that a lion ate him.
Now, I hope you noticed that I haven’t even gotten out of the book of Genesis. But I think what we’ve seen in these examples is a little bit Sunday School, Survivor, and for those who remember, Jerry Springer.
This is probably the main reason why I’d like to talk about the healing power of forgiveness. Some have even called forgiveness, life’s antibiotic.
There is also a truism that I have found in my 25 plus years of pastoring, and that is … “The happiest people are not the most forgetting; rather they are the most forgiving.”
Every one of us are going to be hurt by someone. It may be a co-worker’s grudge, or a parent’s broken promise. It may be a spouse’s unfaithfulness, or a stranger’s resentment. Or it may be a friend’s careless words or unkind act.
Sometimes these hurts are verbal, like the hurtful names others call us, or non-verbal, like when someone turns their back on us. It may also be physical in nature like abuse.
And so, we all carry around deep and painful wounds that defy others or even our own ability to cure. But there is a cure, and that is forgiveness, because forgiveness brings God’s healing to our body, our soul, and to our spirits.
But before we talk about what forgiveness entails, there are some basic truths about forgiveness that I think we all need to understand, that is, what forgiveness both is and isn’t.
Forgiveness is Unconditional
Forgiveness isn’t about “I’ll forgive you if you do this or that for me.” Whenever we attach conditions to forgiveness it’s no longer forgiveness; rather it’s a favor. Real forgiveness is unconditional, that is, it places no conditions in order to forgive someone.
Forgiveness also isn’t something that is earned, nor is it deserved. Consider Jesus! When Jesus forgave us it was based solely on His love of us, not whether we deserved it. On the cross He cried out, “Father, forgive them, because they haven’t got a clue as to what they are doing!” (Luke 23:34 paraphrased)
We never asked to be forgiven, we weren’t even there or alive, but Jesus offered forgiveness, nonetheless. He took the initiative and forgave, which is what we need to do.
Forgiveness Deals Directly with the Offense
Forgiveness doesn’t pretend like the offense never occurred, so let’s stop saying that it’s okay and no big deal. Whenever we don’t deal with the offense it cheapens what forgiveness is all about.
Also, when we don’t deal with the offense, we end up hurting ourselves and others, and that’s because we never accept accountability for our actions, nor do we hold other people accountable for theirs, which leads to the possibility we, or those who hurt us, will in the same manner hurt someone else.
Forgiveness Doesn’t Immediately Restore Trust
The Bible tells us we need to forgive, but it doesn’t say that trust is to be immediately restored. Forgiveness doesn’t mean placing ourselves back in harm’s way.
And if we hurt someone, we shouldn’t expect them to trust us immediately as well. We say, “Since God’s forgiven me, then why can’t they?” or “If they said they forgave me, then why can’t things go back to the way they were?” I’ll get to that question in the next point.
Rebuilding trust takes time. And for trust to be restored, it will take a quality proven measure over an extended period of time. It’s called building back trust.