Summary: This sermon deals exclusively with the topic of forgiveness, what it isn't, why we need to forgive, and how we go about the process of forgiveness.
What’s Up With Forgiveness?
With our Spiritual First Aid series underway, and since the next message in our series dealing with the topic of guilt and shame, I couldn’t think of a better topic to talk about than “Forgiveness.” And truthfully, there aren’t a lot of topics that could really be considered more important.
Now this topic and these points are not something I haven’t talked about before, but sometimes it’s good to review the obvious so it doesn’t become obsolete. It’s what the Apostle Paul said about not getting tired of repeating the same subject.
“For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.” (Philippians 3:1 NKJV)
The world is filled with conflict, and that’s because the world just doesn’t get it. It doesn’t understand what forgiveness is all about, so it misuses, misapplies, misunderstands, or just misses it all together.
This morning I’d like to look at this topic of forgiveness in a three-step process. First I’d like to look at what forgiveness isn’t and what it doesn’t do. Next I’d like to look at the reason why it’s a good idea to forgive. And finally I’d like to look at how we go about this whole forgiveness process.
What Forgiveness Isn’t and Doesn’t Do
1. Forgiveness Isn’t Conditional
It’s not “I’ll forgive you if…” Actually, whenever we attach a condition to forgiveness it isn’t really forgiveness. Real forgiveness is unconditional, that is, you are placing no conditions on the other person in order to forgive them.
Forgiveness is never earned, nor is it ever deserved. Forgiveness isn’t offered based on a promise someone makes to be forgiven, rather it’s offered whether someone asks for it or even wants it.
Consider Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. It is solely based on His love, not whether we deserve it, because obviously we don’t. On the cross He cried, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NKJV)
We never asked to be forgiven, we weren’t even there, but Jesus offered forgiveness for our sins nonetheless. He took the initiative and forgave, and that’s exactly what we need to do. We need to forgive others not because they’ve earned it, but because of the example left to us by Jesus who forgave us.
2. Forgiveness Doesn’t Minimize the Offense
Forgiveness doesn’t pretend the offense never occurred. We’ve been hurt, so don’t say it’s no big thing, it is and it bothers us. Whenever we minimize the offense it cheapens what forgiveness really all about.
Our problem is that we come at this the wrong way. We think by minimizing the offense we’re being spiritual, but in reality we’re not. Instead, by suppressing the hurt, by minimizing it we’re hurting ourselves, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Further, we’re not doing any favors to the person who hurt us. By taking them off the hook, they never accept accountability for their actions, and as a result they don’t change their ways and may very well harm us or others again.
3. Forgiveness Doesn’t Immediately Restore Trust
The Bible tells us we are to forgive, but I’ve yet to find where it says that trust is to be immediately restored. Forgiveness doesn’t mean placing ourselves back in harms way.
And if we’ve hurt someone, don’t expect trust to be immediately restored. People say, “God’s forgiven me, why can’t they? They said they forgave me, then why can’t things go back to the way they were?”
Understand trust is earned and takes time. For trust to be restored, it takes a quality proven measure over an extended period of time. It’s called building back the trust factor.
4. Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean No Changes
Forgiveness doesn’t mean things are going to go back to the way they were, which, by the way, led up to the offense in the first place. Once harm has been done, things will never return to normal, or to the way they were.
If we lose an arm, life will never be as it once was. We’ll never get back to a normal life with two arms again. Instead a new normal will develop, one that is lived with one arm rather than two.
Forgiveness isn’t allowing things to be the same; rather forgiveness is the starting point allowing for a new beginning, a new normal.
5. Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean Forgetting
To forgive and forget is unrealistic. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting the offense; rather it’s choosing to no longer remember the offense against the other person.
First Corinthians chapter thirteen tells us love keep no record of wrongs (verse 5). When someone wrongs or hurts you, instead of writing it down for posterity, choose to no longer store it for future use. It’s choosing to no longer use it against them.