FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER
Bear with one another and forgive whatever
grievences you may have against one another.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. [Col.3v13]
Paul is writing to the Church at Colossae. A group of people who have been forgiven by God and brought into a relationship with Jesus Christ. We could be tempted to think that as a result they would all get on very happily together BUT ….
We only have to read some of Paul’s letters [eg. 1 Cor.] to know that this was not so. We simply have to look at our own situation and examine our own hearts to know that relationships are never perfect.
Even in the best marriage in the world there are tensions at times. In a loving, caring, well functioning Church there are tensions. No community can continue long without conflicts. Whenever people come together in community there is always the probablity of pain, injury, suffering and alienation. Inter-personal conflict is inevitable – even in the Church. Some might even say esp. in the church.
For this reason forgiveness is an essential part of the Christian faith. We need to be forgiven because we wrong others and we need to forgive because others wrong us.
Every virtue, and forgiveness is one, has a counterfeit. There is such a thing as false forgiveness.
1. FALSE FORGIVENESS.
What do we mean by false forgiveness?
ILLUST: A man has had an intimate relationship with another woman. It has all come out into the open and he has faced the shame and guilt which follows public exposure.
His wife hasn’t left him!
Tentatively, doubtfully he asks, “Will you forgive me?”
“No!” but her face shows acceptance not rejection. There is a gentleness in her voice.
“No! not the kind of forgiveness in which you are the offender and I the forgiver. I don’t want you to be beholden for the rest of our lives. We need to work through this so we both understand our parts in the problem”
“But”, he says, ” I am the one who hurt you!”
“Yes, but I helped create a relationship that was open to outside invitations. Let’s work it out together”.
You see this wife is not willing to accept a situation that puts her ONE UP.
The kind of forgiveness that has already judged you and found you guilty and placed you on an inferior moral plane. It has shown you benevolence when you were needy and generosity when you were guilty and now you are to show suitable gratitude for the rest of your life.
This kind of forgiveness is often too easily given. “Sure I forgive you let’s just forget it and go on! It really doesn’t matter”
We sweep things under the carpet – we pretend that they are not there – but eventually the pile under the carpet gets so high that we begin to trip over it.
When forgiveness is dealt out too cheaply we don’t deal with the anger, the hurt and the bitterness – it festers and comes out later in different ways.
It can end up with us being indebted to others or them to us so that this indebtedness can be used as a lever to manipulate each other in the furture.
Alternative translation of the Lord’s Prayer goes: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
False forgiveness can run up debts so that we owe for the rest of our lives. We are indebted to Christ BUT we don’t owe anything – it is all paid.
We have just focussed on one aspect of false forgiveness. There are many!
We can soliciate false forgiveness by making a mountain out of a mole hill. We make our hurt mountain size when the offense doesn’t warrant it. But we want to make the other squirm. It makes them look worse and us look very magnanimous in forgiving them.
As human being we are very complex creatures and as a result our relationships are complex. Forgiveness is an essential part of an open relationship but as with other aspects of inter-personal relationships there are seldom quick-fixes.
In order to understand true forgiveness we have to look at the perfect model – God’s forgiveness to us in Christ.
2. CHRIST’S FORGIVENESS.
When they came to the plave called the skull,
there they crucified him, along with the criminals –
One on his right, the other on his left.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they
do not know what they are doing.” [Lk.23v33-34]
I can understand why others would want to hurt me – I have done many things to hurt other people. In Christ’s relationships with others he always did the best for them – he always did what was right.
ILLUST: Ever really gone out of your way to do something for someone. You have genuinely done it because you want to help or please them. And they have turned around and slapped you in the face. WHAT WAS YOUR RESPONSE!
“Well if that’s how you treat me I’ll never do anything for you again! Ungrateful wretch!!
God gave us everything! He did everything for us! He loved us and gave us the privilege of being made like him to enjoy an intimate relationship with him. We slapped him in the face and then when he sent his son to us we nailed him to a wooden cross.
If I was God I would have wiped mankind off the face of the earth! BUT Jesus said,””Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Why did Jesus say this? How could he say it? LOVE – love and forgiveness are inseparable!
ILLUST: South African elections have been the main news item this week. A lot of talk about putting the past behind. How much true forgiveness is involved? I’m sure that for some it is genuine forgiveness but I suspect that much is just mutual toleration – the alternate being civil war. The euphoria of the election will be tested in the day to day lives of the people.
For there to be genuine forgiveness there must be genuine love. For there to be true forgiveness it must be given willingly. Christ’s forgiveness is given willingly. But there was a cost – it cost him his life and separation from his heavenly father.
3. FORGIVING EACH OTHER.
” … forgive each other, just as in Christ
God forgave you.” [Eph.4v32]
Christ’s forgiveness is one way. It is we who have sinned against God and there is no question of us forgiving God. He bore the full cost of forgiveness.
There are times when we are called upon to bear the cost of forgiveness.
ILLUST: If I break a valuable antique while in your home and I can’t afford to replace it and you forgive me then clearly you bear the cost.
If the State pardons a criminal, society bears the burden of the criminal’s deed.
In all forgiveness there is a cost – a bearing of the penalty of anothers wrong-doing. With God it is always one way – God to us. Between us it is sometimes one way but invariably it is two way – two people – two movements towards reconciliation.
Our forgiveness of each other must be modelled on the forgiveness that we have received from God. The Parable of the Unjust Steward gives us an example of how not to behave.
PARABLE OF THE UNJUST STEWARD.
Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive his brother 7x. He thought that he was being very magnanimous as it was Rabbinic teaching that said 4x. So Peter was exceeding even the religious people of his day. NO! not 7x BUT 70×7 = 490. Two symbolic perfect numbers. Infinite forgiveness.
To emphasize the point Jesus tells a parable.
The servant owes his Master 10 000 talents. It would take a labourer 1000 weeks to earn [not save] 1 talent. Even if the servant was well paid it would take him a life-time to earn [not save] 1000 talents BUT he owed 10 000. The king has the right to take all his possessions and to sell him amd his wife and children into salvery.
The servant seeks mercy and offers to pay it back – an impossible task.
The Master is extremely merciful and doesn’t simply let him try to pay it back but cancels the debt completely. In today’s currency it would run into millions of pounds.
The servant meets a fellow-servant who owes him a few pounds [1/600 000 of the amounts he owed his master] and demands payment. He ignores pleas for mercy and opportunity to pay, which realistically could be done, and has the fellow-servant thrown into a debtors prison.
When the master hears what has happened he is enraged and re-instates the first servant’s debts and has him imprisoned until he can pay.
Without going into all the details of the story the main point is clear. [Hendriksen] – Prompted by gratitude the forgiven sinner must always long to forgive whoever has sinned against him, and must do all in his power to bring about complete reconciliation.
The point is that no matter how much we may be sinned against. No matter how much we may be hurt. What we have suffered is minute in comparison to the sin that has been committed against God. Our sin against God makes another’s sin against us look like nothing.
If we have been forgiven so much surely we should be willing to forgive others!!
It would be naive to think that in a body of people like this we never hurt each other. We do – it is inevitable because we are not perfect!!
If we are going to have fellowship with one another as we talked about two weeks ago them forgiveness is going to have to play a part.
When conflicts arise – and they do – our goal should be reconciliation. If the hurt is deep it may take time and effort and possibly a lot of pain.
BUT sweeping it under the carpet, pretending everything is all right, or forgiving in order to be one up will not bring about true reconciliation and will only result in superficial fellowship.
4. IMPLICATIONS OF NOT FORGIVING.
A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones [Prov.14v30]
Emotions like envy, anger, bitterness and resemtment are often linked to an unforgiving attitude.
When we are emotional upset we often find it difficult to sleep – we can’t eat or we eat too much – we get all churned up inside.
Not forgiving can have a detrimental on our emotional and physical well-being.
Not only does it effect us personally but as Christians it effect the whole body of Christ.
It affect your worship of God that is why Jesus warned in Matt.5v24:
… if you are offering your gift at the altar
and there remember that your brother has
something against you, leave your gift there
in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled
to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
WHAT IF – you want to forgive or say sorry and ask for forgiveness and the other person is unwilling to be reconciled. You are only responsible for your attitude you can try and try but if the other is unwilling you can’t restore the relationship.
ILLUST: Many a marriage is broken up because one partner is unwilling to work at it.
God’s forgiveness is freely offer but if a sinner refuses to repent and ask for forgiveness he remains outside the realm of God’s salvation in Christ.
You can’t force reconciliation it is a two way street. In a situation like this you can only pray for an attitude like Christ’s “Father forgive them ..”
5. THE BENEFITS OF FORGIVENESS.
Just as there are negative effects of not forgiving so there are positive effects of forgiving and recieving forgiveness.
ILLUST: Remember doing something wrong. Maybe as a child and then living in fear and anguish. When at last Mum or Dad talk about it with you and you are forgiven – what relief! What freedom!
ALSO when you have been wronged and you work through your anger and hurt and evetually are able to freely forgive the offender – what relief that brings.
Often we know we should forgive but find it exremely difficult to do so but when at last God helps us to forgive with no hidden agenda there is a tremdous sense of freedom.
Forgiving is seldom easy and there is seldom a quick-fix but with God’s help we can.
ILLUST: Corrie Ten Boom – “The Hiding Place” She and her sister were in a Nazi prisoner of war camp during World War II. Corrie spoke at many Churches after the war telling of her experiences and the need to forgive. She writes of one occassion:
It was at a Church service in Munich that I saw him, the former SS man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing room at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s [Corrie’s sister] pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the Church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message Fraulein,” He said, “To think that, as you say, he has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people of Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man. Was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I can not forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than it is on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When he tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.