My pastor taught on forgiveness this past weekend. It was a powerful message that I know hit home with many, myself included.
Toward then end he gave some practical steps to take on forgiving others:
- Acknowledge the hurt
- Identify the offender
- Cancel the debt
Acknowledge the hurt. Feel the hurt. Don’t conceal it, feel it. The Bible says: Be angry, but do not sin. That is: exchange bitter anger for controlled anger. (see Ephesian 4:26).
Identify the offender. It’s appropriate to create some space and time after the offense, but eventually it’s important to identify and confront the person who hurt you. It’s so easy to let days upon days pass that then turn into weeks and years. Must have the courage to enter into conflict.
Cancel the debt. We don’t like this one. We feel that the perp must pay. There must be punishment worthy of the crime. But I’m finding that to the measure I’ve experience personal forgiveness from God is the same measure I can forgive others. And through the hurt and tears it actually becomes both easier and satisfying.
It’s absolutely stunning that Jesus on the cross would say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (see Luke 23:34)
It’s absolutely stunning that Stephen, as he’s being stoned to death, would cry out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (see Acts 7:58-60)
It’s absolutely frustrating to see the act of forgiveness linger in the Christ follower who has been so amazingly forgiven by God. Forgiveness should come swift and strong, right?
It’s absolutely necessary to have this identity about us as Christians. It reveals we are truly His children. We should be known as big in the area of forgiveness.
But why? Why should we be so good at forgiving our enemies?
Because our joy is at stake. And His glory. Our motivation to forgive is because we long for His glory and beauty to be manifested.
Charles Spurgeon: “To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, so to forgive rises a stage higher in experience than to be forgiven.”
A true Christian knows the inexpressible joy of being forgiven by God and out of that joy he will forgive others. The act of forgiving others in a way completes our joy of being forgiven.
Piper puts it this way:
“When we forgive, we’re absorbing a debt the same way Jesus did on the cross (to an infinitely less degree). However, for the joy set before Jesus (an eternal relationship with redeemed worshipers), he endured the cross. For the joy set before us (salvation and happy relationships), we endure the loss of any satisfaction we may gain from holding a grudge.”
The Sin of Forgetfulness
Why are we horrible at forgiving others?
I love these words from Paul Tripp:
Perhaps a lifestyle of unforgiveness is rooted in the sin of forgetfulness. We forget that there’s not a day in our lives that we don’t need to be forgiven. We forget that we‘ll never graduate from our need for grace. We forget that we’ve been loved with a love we could never earn, achieve, or deserve. We forget that God never mocks our weakness, never finds joy in throwing our failures in our face, never threatens to turn his back on us, and never makes us buy our way back into his favor.
When you remember, when you carry with you a deep appreciation for the grace that you’ve been given, you’ll have a heart that’s ready to forgive. That doesn’t mean that the process will be comfortable or easy, but it will mean that you can approach your needy friend or relative remembering that you’re just as much in need of what you’re about to give to him or her.
That’s why I’m finding daily prayer and bible reading so important. It’s important to daily preach the Gospel to yourself – and to ask for God to bring daily astonishment and renewed appreciation for His mercy and forgiveness.