Summary: A consideration of five reasons that we should want to pursue forgiveness.
We begin this morning with the knowledge that Jesus has commanded us to forgive.
We add to that our general belief that forgiveness is a good thing.
But, then, when we get into the actual situation where our heart has been stomped on and our emotions have been ripped to shreds, we need a little extra encouragement. It helps us in that moment not simply to know that we are supposed to forgive, but why forgiveness is the course that we want to take.
When we are in those hard situations where forgiveness is so unnatural, why should we forgive?
This morning I want to share five reasons for us to consider:
1. Forgiveness acknowledges that there was a wrong committed.
- Some people are quick to discount the idea of forgiveness because they think it’s a type of
pretending that nothing happened - “It’s no big deal,” “Oh, don’t worry about it,” etc.
- Actually, that’s not true at all. When you honestly confront the idea of forgiveness, that very act puts you in a place where you are acknowledging that a wrong was done - something that’s bad enough to need forgiven.
- Forgiveness is not acting as if a wrong was not that important. Forgiveness is confrontation. Forgiveness requires admitting that a serious wrong was done against you.
2. Forgiveness changes your status from victim to victor.
- When someone does something hurtful to us, we are the victim of their meanness or their thoughtlessness. We sometimes believe that there is nothing we can do about our victim status, but that’s not true.
- When we forgive, we are no longer powerless, we are no longer the one who has merely been acted upon. When we forgive, we boldly stand and say, “You will not dictate the way I respond; you will not dictate who I am.”
- See Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:39-41. The forgiving nature of those actions takes power away from the one who would dictate our place.
- Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement represent one of the clearest examples of Jesus’ Matthew 5:39-41 principle in action. As they endured the southern sheriff’s clubs and water cannons without resorting to violence themselves, the evil of the segregationists’ heart was brought to light. There was enormous power in refusing to respond to the violence in the way they were expected to - with more violence. Dr. King wrote, “To our most bitter opponents we say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering.”
3. Forgiveness makes sense for people who have needed, do need, and will need forgiveness.
- We like to focus on the immediate situation and dwell on the wrong done to us. We often devise harsh and merciless responses to those who hurt us. But if we look at the larger situation, we are not only the one to whom wrong has been done, we are also often the one who has done wrong to others.
- We’d best consider the parable that Jesus told following the words of our text this morning. In
particular, consider for a moment the fearsome reality of v. 35. Consider, for another similar example, the words of Matthew 6:12. God has no tolerance for the person who is quick to receive forgiveness from God but then is unwilling to forgive the one who wrongs him.
4. Forgiveness is the only road to freedom.
- We should acknowledge this morning that forgiveness is risky. It is a bit of a gamble. But it
certainly beats the other option. Lewis Smedes writes, “The question is not whether forgiving is
dangerous, but only whether it is a safer bet. It almost always comes down to where we get the best odds. Forgiving is risky. . .. The risk, I believe, is worth taking.”
- Forgiveness does have its risks, but our only other choice (our only other ‘road’) is to hold onto the bitterness and anger. How many of us this morning could name someone who’s life has been ruined simply because they continue to hold onto a wrong done them?
- Consider the following two words of wisdom:
“Whoever opts for revenge should dig two graves.” (Chinese proverb)
“. . .not forgiving someone is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” (Anne
Lamott, Traveling Mercies)
- Forgiveness is risky, but it is the only road to freedom. The other road always leads to self-
5. Forgiveness is not Jesus’ suggestion.
- Matthew 18:21-35 and numerous other passages make it clear the forgiveness is Jesus’ command.
- As we’ve considered these various reasons this morning, I hope they’ve inspired you as to why
forgiveness is the wise choice. But at the end of the day for the obedient Christian, it isn’t simply
the wisest choice, it is your only choice.