Sunday, June 30, 2013

Teach Me How To Forgive

Matthew 6:12-15
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses

We know that Jesus Himself tells us to forgive those who trespass against us but sometimes that’s a hard thing to do. If we look back at verse 15 of our text we see that we are to forgive those who have wronged us so that our Father in Heaven will forgive us. What this verse tells us is that IF we don’t forgive we won’t be forgiven.

I know we all want to have God’s forgiveness for the things we’ve done wrong, so we’re going to look at the difficult question of how can I forgive?

1. Acknowledge that you have been  hurt.

- The starting point for being pursuing forgiveness is to admit that you’ve really been hurt. We like to pretend like what he said didn’t really bother us or what she did didn’t even phase us, but until we are willing to admit that we were hurt by them, we’re not in a place where we can begin to pursue forgiveness.

- There are many incidents in life that are not candidates for forgiveness - things like minor disappointments or passing slights. Those type of things we are to have no second thought to them. Christians who are young in their spiritual walk are very sensitive, and their feelings are easily hurt. When things don't go their way, they will whine, cry, pout, sulk, and even throw tantrums. They haven't learned to endure affliction, so they only know to be offended when trouble comes.

Psalm 119:165 says, "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them." The Word of God can make you strong and mature. Faith in God's great promises can give you the strength to endure disappointments and slights. A mature Christian can take things like these in stride and not give them a second thought. They understand that the one giving the disappointment or slight is usually dealing with their own problems.
Situations that require forgiveness are ones where the pain inflicted is personal, unfair, and deep. Things like betrayal and brutality or physical or emotional abuse for example.

- At this point, as we hurt, we are likely to find some hatred in our heart. Hatred, of course, is never a good thing, but we must be careful that we don’t try to get rid of it by covering it up. When we find that hate in our heart, that’s simply a sign we’re going to need to forgive. That hatred can poison our whole life if we’re not careful. I once heard an illustration about hatred. It went something like this: hatred and unforgiveness are live coals we try to hold in our hand. If we don’t drop them we’ll be burned.

1 John 4:20 ESV 
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 John 3:15 ESV 
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
Proverbs 10:12 ESV 
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses

2. Surrender your right to get even.

- Few would dispute our right to get even. The rule of the world is ‘do unto others as they’ve done unto you.’

- When we choose to forgive, though, we choose to lay aside our right to extract our revenge. In the moment of making that decision, we are doing a couple of things: 1. We are leaving ultimate justice and vengeance to God, and 2. We are deliberately choosing for ourselves the path of forgiveness. 

This is the first step down a different path. 
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew 5:39 Jesus Himself said these words. Jesus tells us not to get even. In fact He tells us in Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Please don’t think that if you don’t get even that is the end of the story. No, for the child of God, we don’t have to get even. We don’t have to fight our own battles. Just like a parent wants to stand up for their child who has been hurt, so God wants to defend us and He will. Romans 12:19 tells us: Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

Acknowledging that we have been hurt gets us in the right place to begin, but surrendering our right to get even is the first step down the path.

 Some would argue that choosing such a path is inevitably going to make us a door mat. But actually we become stronger when we choose to forgive. By forgiving someone who has harmed us we actually take the power to hurt us from them and puts us in the drivers seat.

3. Search for who they really are.

When we have been wronged, we like to paint a picture of our wrongdoer. We emphasize all the bad things about them, we twist anything that looks remotely good, we are quick to suspect their every motive, we see them only one way.

 The process of forgiveness requires that we begin to look for the real person behind the picture we’ve created in our minds. We begin to see that they have not only hurt, they have been hurt. We begin to see that they are weak, needy, and fallible. We begin to find reasons for our hearts to turn toward mercy instead of malice. 

 This doesn’t mean we grant them victim status and excuse all their wrong - we’re forgiving, not excusing. It does mean that we can begin to show mercy as mercy was shown to us by the Saviour.

What is our motivation for doing this? As our passage points out, we are doing for them what God did for us. God could have simply seen our sin and said, “I’ve seen enough, that’s all I need to know about them.” But God looked beyond our sin and saw something worth loving. And that’s what we’ve been called to do as well.

There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you James 2:13

Luke 6:36 Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

4. Desire that good things would happen to your wrongdoer.

In the process of forgiveness, we move from dreaming of bad things befalling those who have hurt us toward hoping for good things in their life.

This doesn't mean that we excuse everything done to us or that we do not seek punishment for the wrong doer. No, sometimes it takes punishment for a change of heart to take place.

 The key in this is your motive. Whereas before you prayed for them to be punished because of your anger and hatred toward them, when you’re pursuing forgiveness you might pray for them to be punished because you want to see their heart changed and that is the most likely route for that to happen. Your motive has changed from wanting something bad to happen to praying for something good to happen.

When we choose to forgive we move past the here and now and begin to keep eternity in view. We are more concerned about the condition of the abuser's soul than we are about getting even for what they have done for us. 

But I say to you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,  Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which spitefully use you. Luke 6: 27-28

5. If possible, enjoy the healed relationship.

 Sometimes there can't be a reconciliation due to circumstances beyond your control, such as forgiving a parent who has passed on, and sometimes the other person won’t join you in reconciliation because they won’t acknowledge that they’ve hurt you.

For reconciliation to happen, they must understand the pain that they’ve caused you and must be sorrowful over it. But when they are, make sure you enjoy the healing and the renewed relationship that can only come through forgiveness.

We’ve looked at five ways we can forgive. Forgiveness is a choice, like so many other things we face in our life. So many people will tell you to ‘forgive and forget’ but God doesn’t give us amnesia. We don’t suddenly forget everything that has ever happened to us the minute we choose to forgive. But when we do choose to lay aside our hurt and our anger, God begins a healing in our hearts and He takes the sting out of the pain. Only God can do this, but we have to do our part too. We have to choose to forgive. We know the consequences of unforgiveness, both here and for eternity so we need to extend forgiveness to those who have hurt us.

Is your heart hurting today? Do you have the pain of unforgiveness living there? Today is the day to have a clean heart, one free from unforgiveness. Yes, you can forgive even though you may have sworn at one time to never forgive that person. Today is a new day. A day of fresh starts. The psalmist David said it so well
Psalm 51:10 says:
God, create a pure heart in me, and renew a right attitude within me

When it comes to holding unforgiveness in our hearts we all need a right attitude, don’t we?
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, Psalm 24: 3-4

Today is the day to purify your heart and rid it of unforgiveness. Let’s not let anything stand between us and God. 

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