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The Practice of Forgiveness

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The Practice of Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35 (Cont.)

January 27, 2002

Call To Worship


Worship in Song


Review and Introduction

Richard Stephens Award

My February plans – Bill preaching

Discovery this afternoon at 5:00 PM (childcare provided)

Last week: The Forgiveness Principle (Matthew 18:21-35)

-         One of many scriptural mandates to forgive:

o       Matthew 6:12

o       Matthew 6:14

-         Why We Must Forgive (Slide)

o       Because God has forgiven Us

o       Because we suffer when we refuse to forgive

-         Thus, forgiveness is both:

o       An obligation

o       A gift

-         But to say we must forgive is not to say forgiveness is easy. The truth is that forgiveness is very difficult. It is costly. It is painful. It cost God His only Son. It cost Jesus his life. It will cost us as well.

-         But for many forgiveness seems impossible. This is not true, but it requires a proper understanding of forgiveness.

What Forgiveness is Not (Slide)

·        Forgetting

o       We are told that God forgets, but even that is open to debate

§         I will remember your sins against you no more

§         Apparently God will remember our deeds, good and bad, in judgment

·        Overlooking or Excusing the wrong that’s been done (denial, not forgiveness)

·        Explaining 

o       Not psychoanalyzing until we figure out “why”

o       If we wait until we figure it all out, we may never forgive.

o       Why does a parent abuse a child?

o       Why does a father or mother drown themselves in alcohol?

o       Why do those who are supposed to love us hurt us the most?

o       Not to say that we shouldn’t try to understand, but there are some things that we will never understand. Certainly understanding can be helpful to the healing process when understanding is possible.

o       But again, lee me say it simply: Sin doesn’t make sense.

o       And even if we do understand, it still won’t erase the pain.

o       So, don’t confuse understanding with forgiveness. They’re two different things.

·        Blaming Yourself

o       Some people actually think that “the Christian thing to do” is to just let ‘em off the hook by taking the blame yourself.

o       Again, that’s just another form of denial.

o       And forgiveness is rooted in honesty, not denial.

o       That’s not to say that you shouldn’t examine your own heart. We’re going to get to that in a minute. But don’t think that if you take the blame for something you didn’t do that you are forgiving the person who hurt you.

o       What’s actually going to happen is this: if you take the blame for something someone else did, you may keep the peace for a while, but it will only be a matter of time before the anger, resentment, bitterness, and even hatred will begin to show up.

o       And if it doesn’t show up externally, it will probably do a ton of damage internally in the form of ulcers, heart attacks and high blood pressure.

o       You can be dishonest with other people, but you can’t be dishonest with yourself for long. Deep down, you know the truth.

o       And forgiveness demands that you face the truth. You can’t just blame yourself.

·        Keeping the Peace at any cost

What Forgiveness IS: (Slide)

-         Facing the Wrong

o       Honestly acknowledging the wrong done.

o       Forgiveness is not denial

o       Story of Joseph

o       Need to be specific

§         Let me say one more thing about facing the wrong: we need to be specific. Don’t just think in generalities. It may even be helpful to make a detailed list. Because when we write down the details of who has wronged us and what they did, we are forced to face the wrong. Not only that, but once we have truly forgiven each person and each act, we can then burn that sucker and see with our own eyes that it’s gone.

-         Feel the Pain    

o       If we want to be set free from the prison of unforgiveness, it won’t come by denying or refusing to acknowledge the pain.

o       You see, sometimes we are willing to acknowledge that we’ve have been wronged, but we won’t admit that it hurt.

o       We harden our hearts and we shut down our emotions and we refuse to allow ourselves to be hurt.

o       Breaking the sound barrier illustration

§         The way to healing is not by pulling away from the pain, but by pushing through it.

-         Confess Our Own Unforgiveness

o       When we refuse to forgive, we are just as much in the wrong as the one who sinned against us. We saw that clearly last week in the parable of the ungrateful servant.

o       And the longer we refuse to forgive, the harder our heart grows, and the more difficult it is for us to let go.

o       So, before we can forgive the other person who has hurt us, we need to ask God to forgive us for our sin against him.

o       What we learned last week is that we can’t give what we don’t have. Until we have experienced the fullness of God’s forgiveness in our own lives, we can’t extend grace and forgiveness to others.

§         Hebrews 12:15

·        “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

§         If we want to be free from the prison of unforgiveness, we’ve got to let God clean out the anger, resentment and hatred in our own heart. Then we will be able to forgive others.

-         Release the Offender

o       Greek words for forgiveness:

§         Apoluo: to release, set free

§         Aphieni: to set aside

o       So, when we say “I forgive you.” What we are actually saying is this, “I choose to release you from the debt you owe me.”

o       Let’s think about it in more practical terms. If you come over to my house and destroy something I own, you are in debt to me. You are responsible for getting it fixed or replacing it. But if I forgive you, I am releasing you from your debt. I am relinquishing my right to be compensated. But now, I am also doing something else. By releasing you, I am choosing to bear the cost myself.

o       You see, that’s what happens in forgiveness.

o       Illustrate Warner concept with a volunteer

§         When someone sins against us, we become bound to that person by emotional chains. If you don’t believe it, just look at what happens when you refuse to forgive. The person:

·        Is with you all the time.

·        They dominate your emotions, thoughts.

·        They cause you to change plans.

§         Not possible to take the chain off yourself. That’s what we want to do, but it doesn’t work. That’s the equivalent of working up our will to overlook it or excuse it, etc…

§         What will work is forgiveness.

§         When we forgive, we take the chain not off of ourselves, but off of the offender.

§         And we bear the full cost of the offense. Now, if that were the end, forgiveness would be too much.

§         But that’s not the end.

§         Then we go to the cross, and it’s at the cross that forgiveness is made possible. At the cross:

·        We realize that Christ has born the sins of the whole world. So he takes all the emotional chains of sin.

·        Someone has said that forgiveness is impossible until we get a true picture of ourselves and a true picture of God. That happens at the cross:

o       We get a true picture of ourselves when we realize that our sins sent Christ to the cross just as much as the sins of our offender.

o       We get a true picture of God’s love and commitment to destroy sin.

o       So, if I refuse to forgive, I am putting myself in the place of judge and jury – a place that only God has the right to claim. Not only that, but I am putting myself in the place of judge and jury over a crime that has already been paid for.

o       But when I choose to forgive, what I am saying is this: “Lord, you and you alone have the right to judge. You and You alone have the right to carry out justice. I release this person and the sin they have committed to you.”

o       When we forgive we stop playing God, and we let God be God.

o       We release the other person, and leave them in the hands of God.

-         Relinquish the Future Results

o       Forgiveness does not guarantee reconciliation.

o       Reconciliation

§         First of all, we are only responsible for our own actions. We can’t force the other person to accept our forgiveness and we certainly can’t demand that they be reconciled with us.

§         This is one of the most difficult aspects of the whole forgiveness process. We want so much for everything to be as it was before we were wronged. But we simply do not have control over that. Forgiveness only requires one person, but reconciliation requires two. And you don’t have control over person #2.

§         We can hope, and we can certainly pray, but ultimately, when we forgive, we have to relinquish the future results to Jesus. We should never go into forgiveness banking on complete reconciliation. God doesn’t guarantee that because He won’t override the will of the other person. If they refuse to acknowledge their wrong, or if they choose to remain at odds, there’s nothing we can do about that. We’re only responsible for our own actions.

o       Forgiveness does not mean you will trust the offender.

§         To forgive a person for what they have done to you in the past does not mean that you trust them in the future. Certainly, reconciliation is the ideal thing, but that may have to come after there is evidence that the person who hurt you has genuinely changed.

§         Now, again, for our own sakes, we need to forgive period – even if they don’t change. But that doesn’t mean that we return to the relationship blindly.

§         Jesus said: Be gentle as doves and wise as serpents.

§         I should say this: forgiveness does not mean that we will automatically trust the offender, but it does mean that we trust Christ to do one of two things:

·        To bring transformation to the repentant

·        To bring justice to the unrepentant

§         And then we trust him to take care of us in the process.

o       The Process of Forgiveness

§         So, I would say that forgiveness is a process which begins with an act of the will in obedience to Christ,

§         Continues as we daily die to self and choose again and again to release the individual to Christ,

§         And reaches some measure of completion when:

·        We no longer view the offense as a debt.

·        We no longer need to tell the story again and again.

Why We Must Forgive (Revisited)

-         Because God has forgiven us

-         Because we suffer when we refuse to forgive

-         Because we can become a channel of God’s grace in the life of the offender

o       Women in Texas who killed an woman while high on drugs

§         The victims brother became a channel of God’s grace in her life

o       Where this is most powerful is in everyday relationships like marriage.

§         Forgiveness is a constant need in marriage because we’re all married to sinners.

§         We can approach sinners in one of two ways:

·        We can try to change them by shame

·        Or we can be a channel of God’s grace through forgiveness

o       Remember: as long as there is unforgiveness, both the offender and the victim are bound up and unable to move on.

o       When we release the person to God’s care, we set that person free to grow in his grace.

-         Is there someone in your life today he needs to be set free to grow in God’s grace by your forgiveness?

Pay It Forward (Video)

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