Forgiveness: Act and Attitude
Forgiveness is a foundational principle to Christian living it is also one of the things that many find difficult to do. Many understand the principle of forgiveness but never truly apply its full meaning in their life. The absence of forgiveness is a dangerous thing causing; strife, division, depression, divorce, oppression and sickness. A definition of forgiveness: To grant free pardon or remission of any offense or debt; to give up all claim. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV) Faith Service Worship Vision
Forgiveness command or suggestion?
There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds.
Jesus says it in a number of places:
These sessions are not about opinion, they are about learning truth, the truth contained in the Bible, together we are going to focus on how we apply God’s truth, black & white in a grey world. To set godly priorities, grow in Christian character and live according to God’s standards so that we are a living witness to others.
“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2) “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:33-35) “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25) Paul says this: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) James says this: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:12-13) We must forgive to be forgiven and forgiveness is hard. What is real forgiveness?
The basis of our belief: Session 5
Ashingdon Elim Bible Study 11 May 2010
Some people who have trouble with forgiveness believe that forgiveness does not take the harm of sin seriously. But forgiveness does take it very seriously. Forgiveness does not excuse sin. Forgiveness calls sin, sin, and it holds the sinner accountable for their actions. The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression. (Proverbs 19:11) Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.” (Proverbs 24:29) Forgiveness says, “you hurt me, what you did was wrong, BUT, I will not hold it against you, I will not try to get back at you and I will not hate you for it.” 1
Forgiveness begins a process.
Is there a limit to forgiveness?
Have you heard someone say, or maybe you have said yourself “I will forgive them when they come and say they are sorry”?
Jesus didn’t mean forgive 490 times and stop, it is limitless. We need to learn to forgive as God forgives. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
This is not God’s way. God says “I forgive you, now will you accept it by confessing and repenting?” If we wait for a confession to forgive, we may be waiting a long time.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Cor. 13:5) Love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
Philip Yancey, in his book “What’s so Amazing About Grace,” tells a story about a man and wife who one night had an argument about how supper was cooked, it was so heated that night they slept in separate rooms. Neither has approached the other to say I’m sorry or to offer forgiveness, and they have remained in separate rooms years after the argument, each night they go to bed hoping that the other will approach them with an apology or forgiveness, but neither goes to the other.
Unforgiveness binds us “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents[a] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 23
“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 26
God’s forgiveness does not wait for repentance, it initiates and calls out repentance by offering forgiveness. Do you have difficulty forgiving people?
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 28
Many hate confrontation and don’t want to confront someone with their sin, so instead they stew in their unforgiveness and hate not wanting to do the hard work of forgiveness. Other times the seriousness of forgiveness shows up the pettiness of our grudges. Some wrongs against us aren’t serious enough to warrant forgiveness.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 29
Accidents, mistakes, minor lapses in judgement, misunderstandings seldom need forgiveness, usually they just need to be excused.
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12-13)
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
How many times do you want to be forgiven?
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35)
Does some behaviour needs to be excused rather than forgiven?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22) 21
We were forgiven a debt that we could never pay back, any debt to us is miniscule in comparison yet we want to collect on it anyway. 2
Can unforgiveness limit blessings in our life?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:14-15)
Forgive in God’s forgiveness Jesus lets us know that if we refuse to forgive, then we really haven’t grasped our great need for forgiveness, or how much God has forgiven us, and in our pride, we have not truly repented, and God will not forgive us. But when we have our eyes on the cross, and the pain and suffering that Jesus went through in order to forgive us and cleanse us from our sin, is can appear pretty minor to forgive those who harm us.
God’s grace is free not cheap. When God’s grace comes into our lives, it does not leave us as we were, it changes us. And one of the first changes that it make is to give us the power to forgive. By forgiving others we are proving that we have accepted God’s forgiveness, and are living in it! If we refuse to forgive those who harm us we are showing that we have not really accepted God’s grace.
Forgiveness is an act of faith
Forgiveness is hard
Forgiveness is a deliberate action. Paul says in Romans: Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
When is it hardest to forgive? It is not easy to give up our right to be hurt, to be angry to get back, to hate the other for what they have done. You may have had terrible things done to you by someone you loved and trusted, and they hurt you and broke your trust. You may have lost a great deal because of someone’s actions.
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21).
The Bible records the story of Joseph whose ten brothers first planned to kill him, and then sold him as a slave to traders who sold him to an Egyptian. Joseph went from slavery to prison, and then to a place in Pharaoh’s court, and finally to being in charge of all Egypt second only to Pharaoh himself.
“At last I understood: in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy.
When famine drove his brothers to Egypt Joseph has his enemies in the palm of his hand. He plays with them for awhile, to see if they are still evil, but they are really more pathetic than evil, and just before he reveals himself to them to forgive them, we are told that he wept so loudly that the whole palace heard it. We are not told why he wept, but I imagine it was because what he was about to do was hard, and painful. By society’s standards he had the right and the power to kill them, but instead he embraces them. This is not easy, it is hard.
Just like tithing is an act of faith by which we are saying”I might not be able to afford this, but God looks after my needs.” Forgiveness is an act of faith, because we are saying, “if there is any punishment that is needed, or any giving of mercy, God will look after it just fine.”
It is not easy to forgive, but God in His grace gives us the power to do it. We are able to forgive because God is in charge. Joseph says to his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
From “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancy. Forgiveness is not a feeling it is a decision. God’s forgiveness for us It is continual (past, present and future). True forgiveness comes from the spirit - not the flesh.
We are also able to forgive because God take even the things that were meant to hurt us, and he uses them for good if we let him. 3
For personal reflection
Reconciliation is the answer You must be able to see your offender as a living spirit, not an enemy, Not a challenge on life’s little merry way, not just a speed bump on your road to paradise. We should not hold onto any areas of unforgiveness in our life. We must keep our conscience clear and keep ourselves reconciled to others. Don’t dwell on things you can not change, but act on things you can change.
Is there someone who you need to forgive?
Is there someone who you haven’t talked to in a long time because of what they did? Is there some one who you refuse to trust because of what they did? Is there someone who you avoid like the plague, you won’t sit beside, someone for whom you just feel like spitting?
We must forgive those who have hurt us because God commands it and because it is the best thing for us. If we refuse to forgive the bitterness grows like a cancer in us and eats away, causing stress and illness and great lack of joy. The only therapy for this cancer is the surgery of forgiveness.
Is there someone whom you are waiting for a confession from before you offer forgiveness? You must forgive them. Your own forgiveness relies on it:
When we refuse to forgive, we allow the sin that was committed against us to hurt us twice: once when we were first sinned against, and again by keeping us from receiving God’s forgiveness. We need to stop the pain and forgive.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:14-18) 17
“Forgive many things in others; nothing in yourself.” Ausonius “It is always the case that when the Christian looks back, he is looking at the forgiveness of sins.”Karl Barth
“He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.”
“Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me.” Augustine
“There is no justification without sanctification, no forgiveness without renewal of life, no real faith from which the fruits of new obedience do not grow.”
“The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.” William Blake “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” William Blake
“To understand is to forgive, even oneself.” Alexander Chase
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act: it is an attitude.”
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Mark Twain
Martin Luther King, Jr.