“4 STEPS TO FORGIVING”
Dr. Charles Swindoll, in his book, IMPROVING YOUR SERVE, tells the story of two unmarried sisters who lived together. They had a long-standing unresolved disagreement over an insignificant issue. As a result, they stopped speaking to each other.
Since they were either unable or unwilling to move of their small house, they continued to live together. They used the same rooms, at their meals at the same table, used the same appliances, and slept in the same room. But they did so silently. Not one word was uttered by either of them.
A chalk line divided the rooms in the house into two halves. Each sister would come and go, cook and eat, sew and read without stepping over into her sister’s territory. They slept in the same bedroom, each on her own side. Through the black of the night, each could hear the deep breathing of the other, but because both were unwilling to take the first step toward forgiving and forgetting the silly offense, they merely coexisted for a number of sad, lonely years.
Is there anyone with whom you are not on speaking terms? Oh, it may not be in your own family, but then again, perhaps it is. Maybe the tension in your home is so thick, you could slice it with a knife. Or, the person you may not be speaking to isn’t in your immediate family. He or she is in your extended family. Perhaps it’s an in-law who has become an outlaw over a falling out you’ve had with that person. Or, perhaps there is tension between you and a co-worker. Or a neighbor. Or, a fellow church member. That happens. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul urged 2 ladies, Euodia and Syntyche to get along. Or it’s a friend who has now become a frien-emy.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve all had at least one run-in and one falling out with another person. And as was stated in the story of the two silent sisters, the disagreement many times really was over an insignificant issue that got blown way out of proportion.
Other times a person has done you wrong. They hurt you. Perhaps the emotional wound is deep. But whether it’s over a misdeed or a misunderstanding, there is one solution for both: forgiveness.
Today we conclude our 4-week series on 4-GIVENESS. 4 sermons on forgiveness. Each message contains 4 things to consider as they relate to a different angle on forgiveness.
The first week we looked at 4 reasons to forgive. We should forgive others because God has forgiven us. To be the recipient of God’s grace while demanding justice from others is inconsistent with the grace of God that is in our lives.
We should also forgive others because we will need more forgiveness in the future. Continued forgiveness from God is contingent upon our willingness to forgive others.
A 3rd reason to forgive is because God has commanded it. To be unforgiving is to live in disobedience to God.
The 4th reason to forgive is because forgiveness leads to happiness. The Bible says we’re only hurting ourselves with our resentment.
In the second week of this series, we moved on to 4 things forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not a feeling. If we wait until we feel like forgiving someone, we will never forgive them. We’ll never feel like forgiving them. We must not let our feelings dictate forgiveness. We need to forgive despite our feelings.
The second thing that forgiveness is not is forgiveness is not ignoring the sin. When someone sins against us, we need to confront them gently and lovingly about their action and how it hurt us. The goal is reconciliation.
The 3rd thing that forgiveness is not is forgiveness is not forgetting. While we may never totally forget what someone has done to us, we don’t have to dwell on it.
The 4th thing that forgiveness is not is forgiveness is not reconciliation. While confronting and forgiving often lead to reconciliation, sometimes it does not. The person who hurt you may not want to patch things up. That’s on them. It’s not on you.
Last week we looked at 4 things forgiveness is. First and foremost, forgiveness is undeserved. The person who hurt you does not deserve to be forgiven, but then again, we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. But he forgives us anyway. Therefore, we should forgive others even though they don’t deserve it.
Secondly, forgiveness is a choice. God has commanded us to forgive. This means that we can forgive if we choose to do so. Forgiveness and unforgiveness is always a choice. Always. It’s never easy. But it is do-able. Since forgiveness is a choice, we control whether we will forgive someone.
Forgiveness is replacing negative emotions with positive ones. Forgiveness is replacing resentment with kindness; bitterness with gentleness; and hatred with compassion.
Forgiveness is releasing the person who hurt you from their emotional debt to you. You don’t demand that someone offer you an apology for what they did to you. They should, but forgiveness isn’t contingent upon that. You forgive before the apology is offered, before the person’s behavior changes, before the restitution is made.
Ok, with that review, let’s move on to the last lesson on forgiveness. 4 steps to forgiving. Like many people we may have some misconceptions about what it means to forgive someone. We may decide that we will forgive someone, but we don’t know what we need to do to express that forgiveness to them beyond saying, I forgive you. So, let’s dive into the 4 steps to forgiving. Here’s the first one……
1.REFUSE TO DWELL ON THE PAST
A man told his buddy, “Every time my wife and I have a fight, she gets all historical on me.” “Don’t you mean she gets hysterical?” “No, I mean historical. Every time we fight, she always brings up the past.”
Has anyone ever gone historical on you? Do you tend to get historical with people who have hurt you? Sometimes, in our anger and resentment, we may be tempted to drudge up old hurts. But does that do any good? It just re-opens an old wound.
The only time to bring up a hurt is the first time to try to reconcile with the person who hurt you. Otherwise, don’t bring it up. To forgive means that we don’t dwell on the past and we don’t bring up the past.
If you bring up past hurts, you have not forgiven the person who hurt you. And I’m not just referring to bringing up the hurt to them. You might bring it up to other people every chance you get. I Corinthians 13:5 says:
“Love keeps no record of when it has been wronged.” – 1 Corinthians 13:5
It is important to keep good records, isn’t it? There are times when record keeping is important. You will need good records if you ever get audited by the IRS. Keeping accurate health records is important.
My father-in-law kept very good records of every important document. That made things a lot easier for Dawn and her brother when they needed to provide documentation when they had to admit their Dad to a nursing home recently.
But there are times when we shouldn’t keep records. We shouldn’t keep records of what other people have done to us. After all, God does not count our sins against us. He will remember our sins no more the Bible says.
Other translations of 1 Cor. 13: 5 say that love does not keep track of wrongs. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done.”
Forgiveness means that we do not keep a mental score card of what others have done to us. Forgiveness means that we do not recite a list of past hurts to the persons who have hurt us. Nor do we rehearsal that list with anyone willing to listen to us.
Clara Barton was the founder of the Red Cross. One day someone reminded her of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But Ms. Barton acted as if she had never heard of. “Don’t you remember it?” her friend asked. “No,” came Clara’s reply. “I distinctly remember forgetting it.”
Forgiveness is where we don’t dwell on the past. We don’t bring up the past. We keep the past where it belongs. In the past. The second step in forgiving is to….
2.RELINQUISH YOUR RIGHT TO GET EVEN
Lynn Swan was a star receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl Championship teams back in the 1970s.
When Swan was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he used the occasion to express some feelings that obviously had been on his mind for a long, long time. He vented some anger toward fellow Steeler, Terry Bradshaw, the quarterback of those Steelers teams.
Because of his bitterness toward Bradshaw, Swan turned what should have been a celebration of his career into a controversy. He used a national stage to get a measure of revenge on Bradshaw.
When we’ve been hurt, the natural response is to retaliate. We feel like striking back at the person who hurt us and paying them back. We are tempted to seek revenge. People will say, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” But they are trying to get even because they are mad.
Sadly, we do live in an “eye for an eye” world. But does revenge do any good? It’s like Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
The natural response when we get hurt is to retaliate. The supernatural response is to refuse to do so. Refusing to get even is at the heart of forgiveness. Forgiveness is where I give up my right to get even. Romans 12:17 & 19 says:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 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.” -Romans 12:17 & 19
Life is not fair. What someone did to you that hurt you is not fair. But God says don’t try to settle the score. Instead, God says to trust in his justice system. One day God will settle the score on your behalf. One day God will right the wrong done to you. Who is better at getting justice, you or God? God is!
So, you and I can practice forgiveness by giving up our right to get even. But we must not stop short with this step of forgiveness. We need to take the next step. Not only should we not respond in hurtful ways to the person who has hurt us, but God calls on us to do an about face and respond in the positive. Forgiveness is when we also……
3.RESPOND TO EVIL WITH GOOD
Talk about a supernatural response! But this is a big part of forgiveness. Romans 12 goes on to say…..
“On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing so, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” -Romans 12:20-21
“On the contrary.” Instead of trying to get even, we take the high road by doing good to those who have hurt us.
Jesus was in the Upper Room with the disciples. They were getting ready to share the Passover Meal together. It was there that Jesus instituted his Lord’s Supper. But, before he did so, he took the time to wash the disciples’ dirty, smelly feet.
The Scripture says that Jesus finished washing their feet. He finished. This means that no one was left out. He washed the feet of Judah who would betray him. He washed the feet of Peter who would deny him. He washed the feet of the other 10 disciples who deserted him as he hung dying on the cross.
Jesus expressed a great kindness to his disciples knowing that they would betray him, deny him, and desert him. Washing their feet was an act of forgiveness before their sins against him. By example, Jesus taught us what it means to forgive someone who has hurt you.
Let’s look at what Jesus’ instruction about this. Turn with me to Matthew 5:38-45.
Jesus says we are to do acts of kindness to those who are unkind and hurtful toward us. You bake them some cookies. You minister to them in their time of need. You speak in a positive manner to them and about them to others. You pray God’s blessings over their life.
In divinely orchestrated turn of events, God will give you the opportunity to do good to those who hurt you. This is especially important if the person is not a Christian. Those are people we are trying to bring to Jesus. Our act of kindness will be a great testimony to the love of Jesus that he is expressing to them through us. And they may come to Christ as a result!
But I know this step may be especially hard. We might say, “ok, I won’t get even. But don’t expect me to be nice to that person.” Still, Jesus said this is the next step in the forgiveness process. The only way we will be able to do it is letting the love of God penetrate deeply into our hearts.
And, even though this step is really hard, when you get to the point where you are able to respond with kindness, you will know that you have really turned the corner on forgiveness. You’ll also find that it is the emotionally healthiest and happiest way to live. And it is the most healing way to live.
Here is the final step to forgiveness…….
4.REPEAT THESE STEPS AS OFTEN AS YOU NEED TO
In Matthew 18, Jesus taught Peter this lesson in forgiveness. Jesus had just told the disciples that if their brother or sister sins against them, you go and talk to them about that. Peter understood what Jesus was implying. Going and talking to them also meant that Peter would have to forgive them. So, Peter had a question for Jesus. Here is Peter’s question and Jesus’ answer:
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” -Matthew 18:21-22
Peter’s question may be your question too. How often am I supposed to forgive someone? Jewish rabbis taught that you were to forgive a person up to 3 times. So, Peter probably thought he was being magnanimous. He doubled the amount and threw in an extra forgiveness for good measure. Peter was willing to go as high as 7 forgiveness-es per person.
Jesus’ response probably shocked Peter and may stun us. Jesus said, “No, Peter, not 7 times. Forgive them 77 times.
I do not have anyone who’s sinned against me 77 times! But that wasn’t Jesus’ point. Jesus’ point was, forgive the person as many times as they need to be forgiven. Forgive people as often as you need to forgive them.
Jesus was teaching Peter, and us, that forgiveness oftentimes is not a one-time event. Most of the time, forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness is hard. Forgiveness is difficult. Forgiveness is a process that you have to work through.
You may decide that you will forgive someone and next week, you drive past their house, or you run into them at the store, and feelings of resentment start welling up in you all over again. Anger and bitterness begin to resurface. This is especially true if the hurt the person inflicted on you goes deep.
What do you do? You go back and you start the process of forgiveness all over again. You decide that you will not dwell on the past. You decide that you will give up your right to get even. And you make the effort to be kind.
How long do you forgive someone? 77 times. As along as it takes. You keep forgiving until the resentment and bitterness subsides. You keep forgiving until the pain stops. You keep forgiving until the desire for revenge goes away.
Forgiveness is a process that you have to work through. You repeat the steps we’ve looked at today as often as you need to. But it’s like Max Lucado says, “as long as you are trying to forgive, you are forgiving.”
So, keep at it. Continue to forgive. Continue to release the offender from the offense so that you can be released from the prison of bitterness.
Lebanon Christian Church
409 Yorktown Road
Newport News (Lee Hall), VA 23603
Phone: 757 887-5536
Nursery - High School
|Adult Bible Fellowships||Sunday||9:30 AM|
|Morning Worship Service||Sunday||10:45 AM|
Children’s and teen Bible School will resume in September.