Carl's Words of Inspiration
This is a sermon I wrote quite a while back on forgiveness but didn't preach.
Today I’m going to speak on the subject of forgiveness. Let’s start by defining what forgiveness is. Its root word is forgive. I went to www.dictionary.com and found three definitions listed for forgive. The first definition listed stated “to excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon.” The second listing said, “to renounce anger or resentment against.” The last one said, forgive means “to absolve from payment of a debt.” The definition of the word “forgiveness” stated it is “THE ACT of excusing a mistake or offense.” Now let’s examine this a little farther from a Christian perspective.
Forgiveness is one of the basic foundational principles of Christian life, and it is supposed to be a two-way street. We experience forgiveness by receiving it, as well as by giving it. Receiving and giving forgiveness go hand in hand. Jesus Himself taught us that. In Matthew 6:14 and 15, right after Jesus taught His disciples how to pray with what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer,” He told them,
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
He repeated this theme in Mark 11:25-26 when He said,
“and whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him,
that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.
But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
If we go to the Father and ask Him to forgive us our sins, how could we turn around and not be willing to forgive those who sin against us? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?
Let’s go back and look at the definitions of “forgive” and see if we can relate them to some bible passages. The first definition I spoke of was “to excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon.” There are many definitions for excuse as it is pronounced more than one way, and it is used in several contexts. The definition we are focusing on is “to grant exemption or release to.” Each year at Thanksgiving, the President of the United States grants an “official pardon” to the White House turkey, which exempts, or releases it, from the slaughter so it is not eaten for dinner. Sometimes a criminal, or suspected criminal, is given a pardon by the President or the Governor of a state. The pardon effectively gives them a clean slate and their crime cannot be held against them, just as though it never happened. 1st John 1:9 says,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Ephesians 1:7 says,
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,
according to the riches of His grace.”
If our heavenly Father is gracious enough to wipe our record clean and give us a “do-over,” shouldn’t we also be willing to do the same with others?
Let’s have a look at that second definition I mentioned, “to renounce anger or resentment against.” Renounce means to give up, or to reject. If somebody does us wrong, our first instinct is to be mad at him or her about it. If we forgive them, then we are giving up, or rejecting, that anger we have toward them. It can be a very difficult thing to do because it goes against our fleshly nature. However, we’re told in Romans 13:14 to,
“put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts,”
and again in Galatians 3:27,
“for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
We can’t give up the anger we feel on our own. We need to lean on Jesus Christ for His strength and His grace to put it behind us and move forward. Does this mean we forgive and FORGET? Not necessarily. Our human nature does not allow us to simply forget. However, God CAN and DOES forget. He tells us so several times in His word. Take, for example, Ezekiel 33:16,
“None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him;
he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live.”
Then there’s Psalm 25:7,
“Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;
According to Your mercy remember me,
For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.”
Jesus paid the price for our sins, so that the Father will not remember them and judge us by them. Psalm 79:8-9 says,
“Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us!
Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us,
help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name;
and deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, for Your name’s sake!”
God tells us in Isaiah 43:25,
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
and I will not remember your sins.”
Are we like God that we can simply forget? Certainly not, but we can forgive. When we stay mad at someone and harbor a grudge, it hurts no one but ourselves. The anger simmers and every time we see the person who wronged us, those feelings come bubbling back up, but the other person likely never even thinks about it. We can’t choose to forget, but we CAN choose to not be angry and let bygones be bygones. We should reconcile with the person, if at all possible. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:15-16,
“moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear,
take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses
every word may be established.’”
If we go to someone to work out an issue and forgive a past injustice, we expect them to be receptive to what we have to say and to be willing to bury the hatchet, so to speak. By the same token, we need to be willing to admit to our own faults and apologize when a brother or sister in Christ comes to us, because we are no better than they. We must avoid being so puffed up with pride that we think we are so free from sin that nobody can have anything against us. Remember that earlier I stated that forgiveness is a two-way street. If we harbor resentment toward a brother or sister and don’t seek to reconcile, or refuse to, then it will just eat at us and steal the joy from our life that Christ wants us to have in abundance. How can we boldly approach the throne and ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy if we’re not willing to offer the same to our fellow servants in Christ? Aren’t the fruits of the Spirit love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Nowhere in there do I read the words anger or resentment.
The last definition of “forgive” that I gave was “to absolve from payment of a debt.” The Lord’s Prayer says in Matthew 6 verse 12 of the King James Version,
“and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
There’s the theme of GIVING as well as RECEIVING forgiveness again. Notice here that Jesus did not put any limits on how often or how much we should forgive. He illustrated the point further later on with the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, after Peter came to Him and asked Him about how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. Turn with me, if you will, to Matthew 18, as I read from verses 21-35.
21 Then Peter came to Him and said,
“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?
Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times,
but up to seventy times seven.
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king
who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
24 And when he had begun to settle accounts,
one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold,
with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying,
‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying,
‘Pay me what you owe!’
29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying,
‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved,
and came and told their master all that had been done.
32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant,
just as I had pity on you?’
34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
This parable is pretty self-explanatory. It is quite obvious that the servant wanted mercy and forgiveness for himself, but was unwilling to give it. It turned around and bit him in the butt, though, didn’t it? Note a very key thing Jesus said at the end, “FROM HIS HEART.” True forgiveness has to come from the heart. You have to mean it. When you bring an issue to the foot of the cross, and ask forgiveness for it, LEAVE IT THERE!!! Don’t carry it away with you again. The same goes for when you forgive someone. Leave the hard feelings behind. Don’t carry a grudge. If you don’t put it behind you and move on, can you say that you have truly forgiven?
The last thing I’ll talk about is the definition of forgiveness, itself, “the ACT of excusing a mistake or offense.” Forgiveness is an action verb, which means you have to DO something. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:23-24,
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there remember that your brother has something against you,
leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.
First be reconciled to your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.”
Jesus, however, performed the ultimate act of forgiveness. He gave His life on the cross, taking the punishment WE deserve, so that we can be forgiven and reconciled to the Father. Even as He was being hung on the cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Could any of us honestly say that we could forgive somebody even as they were killing us? If Jesus showed forgiveness to those who were killing him, shouldn’t we regularly practice forgiveness for much lesser things?