Summary: When you hold onto the sins and shortcomings of others, it hurts you. Forgiveness can release you of that pain. To err IS human; but to forgive FEELS divine!
In the series entitled “No, that’s NOT in the Bible” we discover some of these pseudo-scriptures actually contradict the Bible. For instance, believing the adage “God helps those who help themselves” can hinder a person from seeking God’s help. The aphorism “God won’t put more on you than you can bear” can be dangerous because it can create confusion and guilt.
Have you ever heard someone say, “The Bible says, ‘to err is human; to forgive, divine?’” No, that’s NOT in the Bible, but the statement is basically true. We are all sinners. It’s just part of our human nature. It is part of God’s divine nature to forgive, so when we forgive others, we are displaying a God-like quality. But because we are human we all err. Actually, the correct pronunciation of the word “err” rhymes with “sir.” So, we should say, “to urr is human; to forgive divine.” But if I happen to mispronounce it in this message, will you please act divinely and forgive me?”
We all experience relationship problems in which we are hurt or offended, so we’d better learn how to forgive. Even people in the church don’t always get along. Mike and I have a great relationship based on mutual love and respect, but not every preacher and music director get along as well as we do. I once heard the funny story of the minister of music who led songs disagreeing with what the pastor was saying. For instance, one Sunday the pastor preached on the importance of Christians moving out to share the gospel with others. Immediately after the message the music director led the hymn, “We Shall not be Moved.” The next week the pastor preached on the importance of everyone giving more money, and the music director followed it with the hymn “Jesus Paid it All.” The next week the pastor preached on the dangers of gossip and the song that followed was “I Love to Tell the Story.” The pastor got so frustrated that Sunday night, he threatened to resign if the music didn’t change. The music director followed that with “O, Why not Tonight?” Finally the pastor was so fed up that the next Sunday he said, “I’ve had it with this church. Jesus is leading me to leave and go to another church.” And the minister of music stood and said, “Let’s all sing ‘What a Friend We have in Jesus!’”
The first part of this adage was a common Latin proverb “errare humanum est.” In 1711, the English Poet Alexander Pope wrote an “Essay on Criticism” in which he made the statement “Good nature and good sense must ever join / To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
Since that time there have been several interesting variations on Pope’s statement. Dog lovers claim: “To err is human; to forgive canine.” Mae West was once quoted as saying, “To err is human, but it feels divine.” For anyone who works with computers today you’ll agree: “To err is human–but to really mess things up you need a computer.” Someone wisely observed, “To err is human, and to cover it up is too!”
One of the most powerful passages about forgiveness is found in Colossians 3:12-13, “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Because of our errors, we desperately need divine forgiveness. The Bible teaches God loves us and offers us forgiveness as a free gift; it’s part of God’s nature to display this amazing grace.
In the Model Prayer Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Accepting God’s forgiveness is a lot easier than forgiving others who have hurt and offended us. In this message I want to help you understand six important principles about forgiveness.
1. FORGIVENESS IS NOT A FEELING—IT’S A DECISION
As we examine these six principles of forgiveness, can you think of anyone at this moment who hurt you so deeply you are struggling with being able to forgive them? It may be an ex-spouse, or a former boss, or a family member with whom you are currently estranged. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to put a person or situation on our hearts where you need to apply forgiveness?
You first objection may be, “But I don’t feel like forgiving them.” That’s okay, because God commands us to forgive those who sin against us, whether or not we feel like forgiving them. If you wait until you “feel” like forgiving that person, you may never get around to forgiving them. Like agape-love, forgiveness is not a feeling, it’s a decision. A maturing Christian does not live by feelings, but by faith and obedience. Forgiveness is not a natural human trait.