For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, March 9, 2018

"I Forgive You" - What Does that Mean?

"If you forgive others their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
but if you do not forgive others their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
-Jesus (Matthew 6:14-15)

These words are found in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. If we want to be forgiven by God, we dare not rush past them. Jesus says that our being forgiven by God is contingent on our forgiving others. Let that sink in. Jesus says that eternal things are at stake when it comes to this issue of forgiveness. It is not an option. But what is it?

Forgiveness is not a feeling or emotion. 

If someone hurts us, our emotions may be raw. Forgiveness does not mean that the emotions will instantly disappear. Instead, forgiveness is a choice and an act of the will. A trespass or sin against us creates a debt. It is natural to want to "make them pay" for what they have done. Forgiveness is the decision to cancel the debt. As a result, forgiveness can be difficult or costly. Often emotional release occurs when forgiveness is granted, but not always. Sometimes our emotional response can trail behind our decision.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. 

Sometimes people think that if they have truly forgiven someone then they will not even remember what happened. Does God remember forgiven sin? If he has forgotten something that means that he is not all-knowing! Instead, forgiveness is a decision about what we do with the memory of that person's action. It is possible to forget about something with the passing of time. Perhaps we don't see the person and the emotions fade. However, unforgiveness lingers unseen and when we encounter that person or a similar situation, those emotions will come roaring back. We haven't forgiven, we've merely forgotten about it for a while.

Ken Sande, in his wonderful book The Peacemaker sketches 4 components of that biblical forgiveness.

First, it is the decision not to dwell on the matter. When we have been wronged, it is easy to keep thinking about the wrong. When we do that, the initial wound grows rather than heals. Because we have chosen to cancel the debt, we must make the commitment to no longer let the wrong dominate our thinking.

Second, forgiveness means that we will not bring up the matter again to use it against them. How many hurts are stored up in an ammunition dump ready to be hurled back in the face of the person the next time they offend us! True forgiveness lets it go and does not keep returning to it in order to hurt the other person. This does not mean that we can never mention it again. There will be times, when we are not in the heat of the battle, when a recurring pattern of sin might need to be addressed. In general, though, forgiveness means that we have dropped the matter and will not mention it again.

Third, forgiveness means that we don't talk to others about what happened. Imagine for a moment that someone forgives you for something that you did. You feel set free and it seems like the relationship is being restored. Then you discover that the person went home and posted a Facebook rant about what a rotten thing you did. Would you feel forgiven? No. True forgiveness drops the matter.

Fourth, forgiveness means that you won't allow the incident to stand between you or hinder your personal relationship with the person. You have canceled the debt. You are not going to allow it to hinder the relationship that you have with the other person. If we say, "I forgive them but I do not want to have anything to do with them because of what they did" we have not really cancelled the debt. Forgiveness brings a willingness to re-establish relationship.

Forgiveness does not mean that there are no consequences. 

If a person steals money from the church, it is possible to forgive them. That does not mean that they should be the church treasurer. The woman caught in adultery was forgiven. She would still have to deal with the relational consequences of her actions (John 8:1-11). David was forgiven by God, but his sin against Uriah had far-reaching implications (2 Samuel 12:1-23). At times building a healthy relationship will require boundaries and times of dealing with sin.

Forgiveness begins before repentance. 
The poison we drink
hoping someone else
will die.

Sometimes we have the attitude that says, "If that person comes groveling on their hands and knees and apologizes, then I will think about forgiving them." This poisonous thought will quickly develop into a root of bitterness that will infect our entire lives. Forgiveness begins as a commitment before God before the other person repents. We release the debt before God, echoing the word of Jesus on the cross, "Father, forgive them..." We choose to be merciful and to be patient. We commit to a path of love, realizing that Jesus told us to love even our enemies.

Forgiveness flows from a deep well.

The enormity of our sin against God is too large for words. We were guilty of an offense the magnitude of which can be described in two ways. First, the just punishment would be eternity in hell. Secondly, the cost to God for our forgiveness was the death of His son, Jesus Christ on the cross. The grandeur of the grace of God should take our breath away every time we ponder it. Those who have been redeemed have been made new and this new life bears fruit. That fruit is forgiveness toward others. That is the point of the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35). There may be a struggle at times to forgive others. We are still waging war against the flesh. But the redeemed wage that war. We battle to get to the point where we forgive others. That battle is a sign of having been touched by Jesus.

This is why Jesus says that we will not be forgiven if we do not forgive. It is not that forgiving others is the key to heaven, but forgiving others is a sign that the grace of God has penetrated our hearts.

No comments:

Post a Comment