Summary: Total forgiveness is necessary for our spiritual, psychological, and physical health.
March 12, 2006
Did you see the news report earlier in the week about Charles Cullen? He is the nurse given 6 life terms for the murders of 40 patients under his care. At one point in Friday’s proceedings they had to physically gag the defendant because of his outbursts in court. At one point one of the son’s-in-law of one of Cullen’s victims out of frustration yelled out how he hopes Cullen will burn for all eternity for his actions.
On a humane level we may understand how a family of a crime victim could feel this way, especially after such a heinous crime. Yet study after study has verified what scripture knows to be true. Total forgiveness is necessary for our spiritual, psychological, and physical health.
Total forgiveness is essential but, to be honest, is difficult. The reason? Forgiving persons who have wronged us is contrary to human nature. The world would say to us, “You have the right to be angry, to carry a grudge, after all, you were severely wronged! No one blames you for how you feel.”
Psychologists and physicians tell us just how harmful not being willing to forgive can be to our health. When we hold on to and nurse harsh feelings toward another, stress is produced. This stress can cause anything from mental illness to high blood pressure to ulcers to not being able to get the rest our bodies require.
We are plainly instructed in the gospels to forgive. For instance (read Mt. 6:14-15) Do you see that? If you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven. Jesus himself gives us a lesson on total forgiveness in our scripture reading this morning from Luke 23.
--Give details and elaborate in own words of events leading up to the crucifixion--wrongly accused, mocked, spat upon, beaten severely, nailed to a cross, and killed. Yet before he dies he says, “Forgive them…” Forgive who? To be sure, those who nailed Him to the cross. Forgive even those who had falsely accused Him and now stand at the foot of the cross mocking Him and wagging their heads at Him. Forgive those gambling at the foot of the cross for His only earthly possession. But forgive you and me as well. Forgive humanity and bring them into a reconciled relationship with God.
God has given us a mandate to forgive in His word.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph. 4:32
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Col. 3:13
These two passages have in common the mandate to forgive but there is one more thing they have in common. Let me ask you this. Would you want the level of your forgiveness from God to be based upon your level of granting forgiveness to others? Remember, as the Eph. And Col. Passage says, we are to forgive because we have been forgiven.
Is forgiveness easy? Some instances may be easier than others--but forgiving persons who have wronged you can be difficult--yet it is essential to our own spiritual health.
Some years after Corrie Ten Boom had be freed from a Nazi Concentration Camp, she was scheduled to speak at a church. As she sat on the platform and looked out at the congregation, she saw the prison guard who had been so cruel to her sister just prior to her death.
She struggled and wrestled with God on that very platform. How could she forgive him? She realized though that Jesus Christ had come and died for this former Nazi prison guard as much as he died for her. So how could she not forgive him? Yet the pain was so real. She had to turn it over to God.
None of us here have been imprisoned by a godless and cruel resheme. Yet from time to time either we or someone we deeply love has experienced cruelty at the hands of another. No, total forgiveness is not easy but it is essential.
What is total forgiveness? First let’s look at what it is not then we will turn our attention to what it means to totally forgive another. R.K. Kendall in his book, Total Forgiveness, begins by telling the reader what forgiveness is not. Listen to this.
I. What Total Forgiveness is Not
1. Approval of what they did.
God never approves of sin. He hates sin. In the garden he became angry with Adam and Eve and their sin. Yet he still made them garments of skin and clothed them. This act of mercy demonstrated His forgiveness even at the time. It signified the sacrifice of blood that Jesus would shed for our sin, but God drove them from the garden because of their sin. We can forgive without approving of the action. R.T. Kendall himself says, “Just as God forgives people without approving of their sin, we also must learn that forgiving others does not imply an endorsement of their evil deeds.”