Today, we’re concluding our message series on Relationships. In this series, we’ve discussed what the Bible says about encouraging one another, growing in patience and learning to love unconditionally. Those topics are all things that God wants us to grow in in every relationship. But today, we’re going to talk about what I believe is the most crucial aspect of relationships. If you don’t get this right, it will ultimately destroy the relationship with the other person. And it will ultimately destroy your relationship with God.
Today, my message title is “Choose Forgiveness.” What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is what we are to do when someone has hurt or harmed us in some way. To forgive is to give up seeking revenge on those who have hurt us. To forgive is to pray for them, seeking God’s best for them. To forgive is to love them with God’s unconditional love. To forgive is to seek to be reconciled with the other person. Sometimes, forgiveness is easy, when the hurt is small and the other person seems genuinely sorry. But often forgiveness is hard, especially when the hurt is big, has happened repeatedly or when the other person is not sorry. Some people think that they can’t forgive someone else for what they have done. Let’s look at what the Bible says.
Colossians 3:13b (ESV) … if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
If we have a complaint against anyone because they have hurt or wronged us, we are to forgive them. Why? Because the Lord Jesus has forgiven us, so we must forgive others. How do you know if you have unforgiveness in your heart against another person? Here are the signs. When you think of the person you feel bitterness, resentment and anger. If those are your first thoughts about someone else, you are holding a grudge of unforgiveness. Perhaps there is someone in your life that you only become angry with them when they do or say something that reminds you of a past hurt. That anger is a sign of unforgiveness over a past hurt. That unforgiveness creates a wedge between you and the other person and between you and God. Unforgiveness in one relationship with affect your other relationships. So, this morning, if you are aware of a person you hold a grudge of unforgiveness against, God wants to release you from the pain of that hurt so that you can forgive. When we truly understand how much we’ve been forgiven, we can forgive others. So, let’s look at three steps to forgiving, even when it’s hard.
In order to be able to forgive someone else, you need to have experienced God’s forgiveness for yourself. Receiving God’s forgiveness begins as you …
Most of us have a tendency to minimize our own sin and magnify the sin of others. We look at the news and see someone doing some heinous crime and think to ourselves, I would certainly never do something like that, I’m a pretty good person. Yet, that type of thinking can make us actually miss God’s forgiveness. Why? Because in order to be forgiven, we must admit our own sin, repent or turn away from it and ask for God’s forgiveness. These same thoughts can keep us from forgiving others, whose sins we deem much worse and hurtful than our own.
On one occasion, Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive someone who repeatedly sinned against him. Jesus’ answer was seventy times seven. In other words, there should be no limit to our forgiveness of others. Then Jesus told a story of a master who decided to settle accounts with two debtors.
Matthew 18:24-25 (ESV) When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
This first debtor had a huge debt, equivalent to millions of dollars, a debt that he could never repay. So, his inability to pay his debt was going to cost him everything, including his family and freedom. In this story of Jesus, the master is meant to represent God and you and I are meant to identify with this first debtor. Each of us owes a great debt to God for our sin, a debt which we can never repay. The penalty of even what we would consider the smallest of sins is eternal death in hell. So, we need to …
Matthew 18:26-27 (ESV) So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
So, this debtor begged the master to forgive him of the unpayable debt. The master had compassion on the debtor, forgave his entire debt and released him. That’s what God does for us when we admit our sin debt and ask for His forgiveness. He cancels our debt of sin, takes away our guilt and sets us free to serve Him. Now, God is a god of justice. So, he can’t cancel our debt unless someone else has paid the debt. And that someone else is Jesus. Jesus was able to pay the debt for your and my sin, because He was perfect and had no sin of His own. He died on the cross and paid the price for our debt of sin.
Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
God forgives those who acknowledge their sin, repent and ask for forgiveness.
What does being forgiven by God have to do with forgiving others? Unless we receive and understand what God has done for us, we can’t forgive others from our hearts. Some people think their sins are too big for God to forgive. Perhaps, you’ve done something in the past and feel like God can’t forgive you. Yet, the Bible teaches us that nothing is too big for God to forgive.
Other people think their sins are too little and don’t really need forgiveness. But just one sin, no matter how small, is enough to keep you out of a relationship with a holy God and keep you separated from Him forever. So, each us must recognize that we have sinned, that we need forgiveness and that Jesus is able to forgive every and all of our sins. Once we have been forgiven, once we have a relationship with God through Jesus, we must …
Just as love is a choice, forgiveness is a choice. You don’t wait until you feel like forgiving, you may never feel like forgiving. You simply choose to forgive others. We must realize that in light of our own huge sin, it is easy to …
Let’s go back to Jesus’ story of the two debtors and see how the first debtor, who had been forgiven, acted with someone else.
Matthew 18:28 (ESV) But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’
The first debtor had been forgiven a debt of millions, yet now he was insisting on instant repayment of a much smaller debt of mere thousands. The first debtor was refusing to forgive the other man. Now, since God has given us a sense of fairness, it is apparent that the first debtor is not being fair to the second debtor. Since he had been forgiven much, he should have been willing to forgive the small debt of someone else. Not only must we choose to forgive other’s wrongs, we must
When we realize how much compassion that God has shown us, it is easier to have compassion and forgive those who have hurt us. The example of the first debtor in Jesus’ story is one we should not follow.
Matthew 18:29-30 (ESV) So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
The first servant had no compassion, patience or mercy. He had not learned anything from the master’s forgiveness. He refused to forgive his fellow servant. We must not be like him. In light of God’s forgiveness, we must choose to forgive others with compassion.
Sometimes those closest to us are the hardest to forgive, might be your spouse, your children or your parents. Maybe you still feel pain from something that happened long ago. There are people still holding grudges against parents who have long ago passed on. How can you get free of that pain in your soul? Through forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? To forgive is to cancel a debt, to not insist on getting even, to replace hatred and bitterness in your heart with love. To forgive does not mean that you think what the person did was OK. It may have been very wrong, but you forgive and leave justice in God’s hands. You remove the barriers to restoring the relationship from you side and you pray for the relationship to be restored. As it takes two to restore a relationship, not every relationship can be restored.
Forgiveness begins with a choice, be it is also a process. Forgive and continue to forgive, every time the pain surfaces, until God brings healing to your heart. As we choose to forgive others, we bring freedom to our own lives and do our part to restore damaged relationships. Finally, we must learn to …
A grudge is resentment enough to justify retaliation. You would get even if you could. When you hold a grudge against someone, you feel bitterness, anger, hurt and resentment. A grudge is simply another word for unforgiveness.
When a person does not forgive someone who has hurt them, they end up hurting themselves even more than the other person. Unforgiveness leads to loss of freedom in your life. In the story that Jesus told, when the master found out what the unforgiving servant had done, here’s what he told him.
Matthew 18:32-33 (ESV) Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’
The master called the unforgiving servant a wicked servant. Then the king sent the unforgiving servant to prison, revoking the forgiveness he had previously given him.
Matthew 18:34-35 (ESV) And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Bondage means that your life is not free. You are consumed with bitterness, thinking about your pain. When your life is dominated by a grudge, you will have spiritual, emotional and physical problems. You won’t be free to serve God and follow His plan, all because of unforgiveness. In fact …
Clearly, we are commanded by Jesus to forgive others from our heart because we have been forgiven. If we do not forgive, then God will revoke our forgiveness. Jesus made this very clear at the end of His teaching on the Lord’s Prayer.
Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV) For 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.
Since we have been forgiven by God, we have an obligation to forgive everyone who hurts us. Jesus then adds, as we saw demonstrated in the story of two debtors, that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us. And that has eternal implications. So God would have us daily forgive those who have hurt us, so that God can daily forgive the sins that we confess to Him.
During WWII, Corrie ten Boom was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. She and her sister experienced many unspeakable horrors and tortures at the hands of the German prison guards. Years later after the war, she met face to face with one of the most cruel and heartless guards at a meeting where she was speaking on forgiveness. The former guard held out his hand asked “Will you forgive me?” She felt not a trace of love or kindness or warmth for the man, yet she offered up a silent prayer “Jesus help me.” Then she extended her hand in forgiveness to the man. As she did, an incredible flow of love and kindness from God came upon her. Weeping, she cried out “I forgive you brother.” Corrie said, “I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in the moment!”[i]
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you
When you realize how much you have been forgiven by God, you can choose to forgive others with God’s help. You can resist holding grudges. Forgiveness is the key to restoring damaged relationships. Forgiveness releases the power of God into our lives and relationships.