How to Forgive

05 Feb

(Mark 11:25 NIV)  “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.””

In 1944 Karl on his death bed…rehearsed his story and asked hospital attendants to find him a Jew…wanted to confess his deeds. Had been part of a group who had put 300 Jews in a building, set it on fire, and shot any who tried to run out to escape. “Can you forgive me, so I can die in peace?” Simon walked out with no response….the vast majority said Wiesenthal did the right thing. What would you do? And what would Jesus do?

power of forgivenessJesus teaches us to forgive: (Mark 11:25 NIV)  “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.””

To forgive means to let go of an offense, drop the case, drop the attempts at revenge, let go of the hurt feelings, stop dwelling on it, not to bring it up again.

Even though it can be difficult, we’ve learned that we need to forgive not only because Jesus tells us to, which should be enough, but also because our salvation depends on our willingness to forgive others, because our health is at stake (spi, emot, phy), and because it is essential to having relationships. Today we want to talk about HOW to forgive. I also want to let you know that at the end of the message today, I’m going to give you an opportunity to forgive someone you need to forgive, if you are ready to do so. May or may not be. Write their name on a card, bring it to the back and give it to me. I won’t look at the names, but you can use initials or code if you prefer. And you may not be ready yet….

I want to begin by giving something of a formula to follow. Not to make forgiveness simpler than it really is but just to give us something we can remember. Then we’ll talk about some of the complexities afterward.

Face it, feel it, forgive it.

This suggests that it may take some time, and that may rub you wrong. You may feel like we ought to just do it. But you know, quite a few of the other things Jesus taught take some time too—like love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, & strength (can get started, but ALL takes a while), confess your sins to one another (be great if we just did, but it usually takes some time for us to get to that point).  Most commands are a process…they don’t immediately receive complete obedience.

What’s more, it’s important to remember what Jesus said, that, that we must forgive each other from our hearts (Matt. 18:35 NIV)  “”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””). He’s not looking for us to just say, “Ok, I forgive you,” but to forgive genuinely, from our hearts. That means we are going to have to give some attention to our hearts.

Some of us are too quick to forgive—we don’t really face what was done to us or let ourselves feel the pain of what was done. Essentially, we’re in denial. There’s a fine line between denial & forgiveness—we could easily mistake one for the other. Others of us are too slow to forgive—we know full well what was done and we hold on to the pain and wallow in it. I think the approach of face it, feel it, and forgive it gives a good balance. It keeps us from “forgiving” quickly and flippantly and also keeps us from postponing forgiveness indefinitely.

One more thing, Jesus did something like this in Gethsemane. I’m not saying he was trying to create a formula, because I don’t believe that. But before he spoke the words of forgiveness on the cross, he faced the reality and felt the pain of what was about to happen.

Face it

We need to acknowledge what was done to us. Again, some of us have no problem with this (& don’t really even need to listen to this part). But others of us do need to hear it because we have a tendency to make excuses for other people or to place all the blame on ourselves, neither of which is healthy. Of course, if we have done wrong too, we need to acknowledge that, confess it to God and to someone else, and repent of what we did.

Also, forbearance is a good thing. I sure don’t want to encourage us to be sensitive and take offense more easily. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov 19:11 NIV)  “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”).

So, search your heart, pray that God will help you see things clearly. And if you think someone has in fact done you wrong, acknowledge that to yourself.

Feel it

This is profound: if you’ve been hurt, it hurts! For some reason, some of us don’t like to admit we have been hurt. At last year’s Super Bowl, Pepsi had the “I’m good” commercial where various men get whacked with a golf club, a piece of wood, an electrical charge and other things, & they always spring up and say “I’m good.” For some reason a lot of us don’t want to show it when someone’s words or actions hurt us.

But they do hurt and we need to take our hurts to God. We shouldn’t stuff it, not should we cover up the wound with alcohol, food, shopping, sex, workaholic, perfectionism or anything else. We wouldn’t leave a physical wound untreated, so why would we leave a heart wound untreated? We do that by making GOD our refuge and pouring out our hearts to God. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God knows we will get hurt, but he didn’t intend for us to stay hurt. He is the God of all comfort and he is able to comfort us.

(2 Cor 1:3-5 NIV)  ” Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, {4} who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. {5} For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

Those in the ancient world were far better mourners than we are.”

Ideally, we treat each of our wounds soon after they happen. If not, we will be wounded and less capable of handling new wounds. If you wound a wounded person, it really hurts. “Don’t slap someone on the back with sunburn.” And it makes it harder for them to sort through things because the new hurt gets mixed in with the old hurts and it can be hard to tell them apart or to know for sure where the pain is coming from.

We often find some who say, “Well, just get over it.” Others: “you have a right to be angry.” Both those responses reveal an unequipped healer.

If the hurt doesn’t go away in due time, we may need to talk to a Christian therapist. Perhaps to a mature, wise, godly friend or shepherd, but we need to be careful about who we talk to or we may get worse instead of better, we may get our hurts and anger all stirred up again. Frankly I’m not sure very many of us are equipped to help others with matters like that. Be careful.

Once we have felt the pain and poured it out to God, we need to move on to the next step, even if we have to keep taking our pain to God longer.

Forgive it

We may not feel like doing it, but followers of Jesus determine their actions by faith and obedience, not by feelings. Feelings have an important place in our lives, but it is NOT to be the command center for our responses, words, and actions.

Feelings are not our command center: Jesus has that place in our life! Don’t allow your feelings to reign! Act on the will..act on a decision.

Ultimately forgiving some is a choice. It is an act of the will. And we ARE able to do it. Jesus wouldn’t have told us to do it if it were impossible to do. Like a lot of other things, we may have to learn to do it by doing it.

It may be good to tell the person you are forgiving them or maybe not. The circumstances in which we get wronged are vastly different and some could entail some danger of various kinds. So we’ll need to be discerning or get some wise counsel about whether to talk to them. I will say that if you do tell them, make sure you don’t do it in a condescending way. Sometimes it might be appropriate to write the person a letter instead of talking to them in person. Sometimes it might be best not to say anything to them but just to tell a trusted Christian friend.

We need to make forgiveness tangible: TODAY: write on a card. If others see you, that’s ok, know that you are setting a good example. Maybe you will write it down and then burn it…maybe you should consider mailing it. (Shredder provided at the foot of the cross).

Includes treating them as forgiven. May need some boundaries, especially if there was abuse or crime or if there is physical, spiritual, or emotional danger. Again, we need to make sure we don’t use boundaries as a way of hiding a refusal to forgive.

In most cases we also need to treat them with true love, be open to reconciliation and be open to slowly rebuild some trust. Again, there may be certain cases where we don’t, but remember it is easy to deceive ourselves. So again, seek wise, spiritual counsel. And know that God really does want his people to be reconciled. He doesn’t want the church to have people in it who won’t speak to each other or who avoid each other. He said the world would recognize us as his people by our love, and if there is something between people the tension will be obvious.

(Mat 5:23-24 NIV)  “”Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, {24} leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Mention other matters that may help:

To err is human. To blame it on the other guy is even more human. That’s not right, is it? But that is usually what we seek to do. Rather, To err is human, to forgive is divine. We need God’s help. If it seems really hard, that’s because humanly it is next to impossible. Only with God’s power and help can enough love be produced in our hearts to enable us to forgive.

Corrie ten Boom, a believer, was asked late in her life to speak to a large crowd. She saw one there who was one of the cruelest guards in the concentration camp, where she had been forced into…had lost a sister there. He approached her after the talk: “Frauline, I am a Christian and I have asked God to forgive me for the things I did there. I am asking you, will you forgive me.?” She struggled with an answer and said to herself, “Jesus, all I can do it raise my hand…you will have to help me do the rest.”  She raised her hand and was able to take the guard’s hand: “I fully forgive you, brother.” (Inrig, p 128).

Remember, forgiveness must be from the heart—so we must let God work on us.  One specific way of doing that is to meditate on how much God has forgiven you

(Luke 7:47 NIV)  “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.””).

Let his forgiveness heal & transform you, remember in order to be forgiven, we must forgive. That indicates the 2 are related. If we’re having trouble with the effect, spend time with the cause.

(2 Pet 1:3-9 NIV)  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. {4} Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. {5} For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; {6} and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; {7} and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. {8} For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. {9} But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

It may help to try to understand the other person

(Psa 103:8-14 NIV)  “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. {9} He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; {10} he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. {11} For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; {12} as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. {13} As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; {14} for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”).


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Posted by on February 5, 2018 in Forgiveness


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