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A study of Forgiveness: A Guiding Principle in the Issue of Love – Luke 7:36–50


“A person who is forgiven little shows only little love”

The present passage contrasts the attitudes of a sinful but repentant woman and the self-righteous. It needs to be studied carefully, for self-righteousness is a serious sin. It is both common and damning.

Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner. Note several things. Simon invited Jesus to his house, but he did not extend to Jesus the common courtesies (Luke 7:44-46). He was rude to the Lord. He was not even sure Jesus was a prophet, much less the Messiah (Luke 7:39).

Why then did he invite Jesus to his house? We do not know; nothing is said as to why. The best speculation is that Simon enjoyed the company of celebrities, and he had heard so much about Jesus that he wanted to meet and talk with Him on an informal and friendly basis.

Jesus ate with both sinners and religionists (Pharisees) (Luke 5:29-30). No one was excluded from His attention or love, even when they lacked the common everyday courtesies and respect (Luke 7:44-46). He sought every man.

The house of Simon was a house of the rich. The rich always had an open courtyard, usually in the center of the house; that is, the house was built around an open courtyard. Sometimes the host would allow the public to stand around in the courtyard and listen to the discussions, in particular when a rabbi or some celebrity was the chief guest.

Notice the attitude of the repentant. The woman was a sinner, a prostitute. She demonstrated what a sinner has to do in coming to Jesus.

She sensed a desperate need. She was either convicted of her sin while hearing Jesus or else she had heard Him before and came under heavy conviction. His plea for men and women to repent and prepare for the Kingdom of God pierced her heart. She knew she was a sinner: unclean, lost, condemned. The guilt and weight of her sin was more than she could bear. She ached for forgiveness and cleansing, for freedom and liberty.

She approached the Lord despite all. She knew that the public scorned and gossiped about her, and the so-called decent people wanted nothing to do with her. What would Jesus do—He who said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest….” (Matthew 11:28-30)?

She knew that if she was recognized, the Pharisee might throw her out of the house. He knew about her (Luke 7:39). She thought about the situation, and her thinking turned into hope, and her hope into belief. Surely He who offered such an invitation would receive her.

Before anyone could stop her, she rushed to Jesus and stood behind Him at His feet. (Remember, in the East people reclined to eat. They rested on their left arm facing each other around the table with their body and feet extending out away from the table.)

She surrendered to the Lord in utter humility. Standing there, she was overcome with conviction and emotion. She fell at Jesus’ feet weeping—so broken that tears just flowed from her eyes. She unwound her hair and wiped and kissed Jesus’ feet. Seldom has such love and devotion been shown Jesus.

There was only one thing that could make a prostitute enter a Pharisee’s home—desperation. She was gripped with a sense of lostness, of helplessness, of urgency.

The loosening of her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet was forbidden of women in public. She must have been so desperate she was totally oblivious to the onlookers. The point is this: she was surrendering her heart and life to the Lord, begging Him to forgive her. She was so broken she was unable to speak, but Jesus knew her heart. Words were not necessary (Luke 7:47-48).

She loved much, giving her most precious possession. Perfume was highly valued by women of that day. Apparently, by describing the perfume as he does, Luke is stressing the expense of the perfume and the great sacrifice she was making. It was probably the most costly possession she had, so she was giving it to her Lord. However, there is something more important here. Note what she did with the perfume. She anointed her Lord; anointed His feet in a supreme act of humility and love and surrender.

The behavior of the self-righteous man revealed several things.

  1. The man was considerate, but self-righteous. Note, he only thought these things; he would not say them publicly lest he embarrass his guests. (How like the self-righteous!)
  2. The man considered himself better. He felt he was better than the sinful woman, so he would never allow her to touch him. He would keep his distance, ignore, and have nothing to do with her. But note something else. He considered his judgment and knowledge, opinions and behavior to be better than others. He expected others (Jesus) to judge and act as he did. He thought that if Jesus only knew who the lady was, then He would reject her.
  3. The man sensed no need for forgiveness and repentance. He thought of himself as good enough in two areas.
  4. He was good enough in religion. Note he was a Pharisee, a man who had given his life to practice religion. If anyone was ever good enough, he should have been.
  5. He was good enough in behavior. He was well behaved, decent and moral, just and equitable, respected and highly esteemed. He was not immoral; in fact, he would have nothing to do with immorality. He had not and never would commit a sin that would be publicly condemned. Therefore, he felt as though he had done nothing for which he needed forgiveness.

Jesus told a parable about two debtors. Note several things that say much to the self-righteous.

  1. Jesus announced that He had something to say, something critically important. Undivided attention was needed. Every self-righteous person needs to listen and listen closely.
  2. Jesus was a prophet and more—He was the Son of God; therefore, He not only knew the people who were sitting around Him, He knew their every thought. Note that from this point on, Jesus was answering the thoughts of Simon. Simon had never said a word about Jesus not knowing who the woman was nor about his own question about Jesus being a prophet. Simon had only been thinking these thoughts “within himself” (Luke 7:39).

Jesus is the Son of God; therefore, what a man thinks pales into insignificance when facing the One who knows all thoughts, including what one really thinks and feels within. Jesus knows the truth of every thought and feeling within a man. If a person is self-righteous, Jesus knows it. If a person is repentant, truly repentant, Jesus knows it. No one hides anything, no feeling, no thought from Him.

  1. The meaning of the parable is strikingly clear. A glance at the verses and points in the outline show this. Note how clearly the parable illustrates the grace of God in freely forgiving sin (salvation) (cp. Ephes. 1:7; Ephes. 2:8-9; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2).

What was the overwhelming need of the self-righteous? To really see Jesus, who the repentant say He is. Note what Jesus asked Simon, “Seest thou this woman, this repentant?” The repentant had much to teach the self-righteous about Jesus. The repentant really sees Jesus, who He really is.

  1. Jesus was the One who deserved more than common courtesies. The host usually showed respect by providing water for the guests to wash their dusty, sandaled feet. The kiss was the accepted greeting among friends, and oil was usually given for honored guests to refresh themselves after travelling under the hot sun. It was expensive, so it was usually reserved for honored guests.
  2. Jesus deserved more than common respect (water); He deserved a worshipful respect. He was seen as Lord and was respected as Lord by the repentant. He was the One who alone could meet the needs of the human heart; therefore, He was the One who was to be worshipped. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
  3. Jesus deserved more than a common greeting; He deserved a humble, brokenhearted greeting. He was approached with a sense of unworthiness and humility. The repentant saw the worthiness of Jesus and grasped something of His awesome person as the Son of God and as the sovereign Lord of the universe; therefore, He was the One to whom all men owed their allegiance, the One who alone had the power to forgive and accept men. The repentant saw Jesus as the One who alone could help her, the One who alone had the power to help, so the repentant approached Jesus and greeted Him with a deep sense of humility and unworthiness. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
  4. Jesus deserved more than a common gift; He deserved a sacrificial gift. He was seen as the hope and Savior of one’s life, so the repentant gave Jesus her life, all she was and had. The repentant surrendered her life and gave the most precious gift she had to anoint her Lord. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
  5. Jesus was the One who had the power to forgive sins. Three simple facts are imporant here.
  6. The woman’s sins were many. Jesus did not overlook her sins, nor the seriousness of them. After all it was her sins and the sins of others that brought about His humiliation, His having to come to this sinful world and to die for the sins of men. However, He forgave her sins despite their awfulness. Every sinner should note this carefully.
  7. Self-righteousness sensed the need for little forgiveness; therefore, the self-righteous loved little. The self-righteous had only a formal, distant relationship with God. His relationship was cold, having only a small sense of sin and sensing only a little need for forgiveness. It was enough to have Jesus present at his table (the table was about the only place many acknowledged His presence).

The self-righteous approach to God…

  • has only a little sense of sin; therefore senses only a little need for forgiveness.
  • is blinded to man’s state of sin, to man’s true being, that of being short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
  • has little sense of the need for special mercy and grace, is blinded to God’s Sovereign Majesty and Person.
  • has only a formal, distant relationship with God, has little personal relationship with God.
  • gives little honor to God, makes little sacrifice for God.
  1. Jesus forgave sin. He had the power to forgive the sins of this repentant.
  2. Jesus was the One whom people needed to ask about.
  3. Jesus was the One who did save the repentant. The woman believed Christ to be the Savior, the One who could forgive her sins. Therefore, Christ saved her.

Could two people be more different? He is looked up to. She is looked down on. He is a church leader. She is a streetwalker. He makes a living promoting standards. She’s made a living breaking them. He’s hosting the party. She’s crashing it.

Ask the other residents of Capernaum to point out the more pious of the two, and they’ll pick Simon. Why, after all, he’s a student of theology, a man of the cloth. Anyone would pick him. Anyone, that is, except Jesus. Jesus knew them both. And Jesus would pick the woman. Jesus does pick the woman. And, what’s more, he tells Simon why.

Not that Simon wants to know. His mind is elsewhere. How did this whore get in my house? He doesn’t know whom to yell at first, the woman or the servant who let her in. After all, this dinner is a formal affair. Invitation only. Upper crust. Crème de la crème. Who let the riffraff in?

Simon is angry. Just look at her—groveling at Jesus’ feet. Kissing them, no less! Why, if Jesus were who he says he is, he would have nothing to do with this woman.

One of the lessons Simon learned that day was this: Don’t think thoughts you don’t want Jesus to hear. For Jesus heard them, and when he did, he chose to share a few of his own.

Simon invites Jesus to his house but treats him like an unwanted step-uncle. No customary courtesies. No kiss of greeting. No washing his feet. No oil for his head.

Or, in modern terms, no one opened the door for him, took his coat, or shook his hand. Count Dracula has better manners.

Simon does nothing to make Jesus feel welcome. The woman, however, does everything that Simon didn’t. We aren’t told her name. Just her reputation—a sinner. A prostitute most likely. She has no invitation to the party and no standing in the community.

But people’s opinions didn’t stop her from coming. It’s not for them she has come. It’s for him. Her every move is measured and meaningful. Each gesture extravagant. She puts her cheek to his feet, still dusty from the path. She has no water, but she has tears. She has no towel, but she has her hair. She uses both to bathe the feet of Christ. As one translation reads, “she rained tears” on his feet (v. 44 msg ). She opens a vial of perfume, perhaps her only possession of worth, and massages it into his skin. The aroma is as inescapable as the irony.

You’d think Simon of all people would show such love. Is he not the minister of the church, the student of Scripture? But he is harsh, distant. You’d think the woman would avoid Jesus. Is she not the woman of the night, the town hussy? But she can’t resist him. Simon’s “love” is calibrated and stingy. Her love, on the other hand, is extravagant and risky.

How do we explain the difference between the two? Training? Education? Money? No, for Simon has outdistanced her in all three.

But there is one area in which the woman leaves him eating dust. Think about it. What one discovery has she made that Simon hasn’t? What one treasure does she cherish that Simon doesn’t? Simple. God’s love. We don’t know when she received it. We aren’t told how she heard about it. Did she overhear Jesus’ words “Your Father is merciful” ( Luke 6:36 esv )?

Was she nearby when Jesus had compassion on the widow of Nain? Did someone tell her how Jesus touched lepers and turned tax collectors into disciples? We don’t know. But we know this. She came thirsty. Thirsty from guilt. Thirsty from regret. Thirsty from countless nights of making love and finding none. She came thirsty.

And when Jesus hands her the goblet of grace, she drinks. She doesn’t just taste or nip. She doesn’t dip her finger and lick it or take the cup and sip it. She lifts the liquid to her lips and drinks, gulping and swallowing like the parched pilgrim she is. She drinks until the mercy flows down her chin and onto her neck and chest. She drinks until every inch of her soul is moist and soft. She comes thirsty and she drinks. She drinks deeply.

Simon, on the other hand, doesn’t even know he is thirsty. People like Simon don’t need grace; they analyze it. They don’t request mercy; they debate and prorate it. It wasn’t that Simon couldn’t be forgiven; he just never asks to be.

So while she drinks up, he puffs up. While she has ample love to give, he has no love to offer. Why? The 7:47 Principle. Read again verse 47 of chapter 7 : “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

Just like the jumbo jet, the 7:47 Principle has wide wings. Just like the aircraft, this truth can lift you to another level. Read it one more time. “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” In other words, we can’t give what we’ve never received. If we’ve never received love, how can we love others?

But, oh, how we try! As if we can conjure up love by the sheer force of will. As if there is within us a distillery of affection that lacks only a piece of wood or a hotter fire. We poke it and stoke it with resolve. What’s our typical strategy for treating a troubled relationship? Try harder.

“My spouse needs my forgiveness? I don’t know how, but I’m going to give it.”

“I don’t care how much it hurts, I’m going to be nice to that bum.”

“I’m supposed to love my neighbor? Okay. By golly, I will.”

So we try. Teeth clinched. Jaw firm. We’re going to love if it kills us! And it may do just that.

Could it be we are missing a step? Could it be that the first step of love is not toward them but toward him? Could it be that the secret to loving is receiving? You give love by first receiving it. “We love, because he first loved us” ( 1 John 4:19 nasb ).

Long to be more loving? Begin by accepting your place as a dearly loved child. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us” ( Eph. 5:1–2 niv ).

Want to learn to forgive? Then consider how you’ve been forgiven. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” ( Eph. 4:32 niv ).

Finding it hard to put others first? Think of the way Christ put you first. “Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God” ( Phil. 2:6 nlt ).

Need more patience? Drink from the patience of God ( 2 Pet. 3:9 ). Is generosity an elusive virtue? Then consider how generous God has been with you ( Rom. 5:8 ). Having trouble putting up with ungrateful relatives or cranky neighbors? God puts up with you when you act the same. “He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” ( Luke 6:35 niv ).

Can’t we love like this?

Not without God’s help we can’t. Oh, we may succeed for a time. We, like Simon, may open a door. But our relationships need more than a social gesture. Some of our spouses need a foot washing. A few of our friends need a flood of tears. Our children need to be covered in the oil of our love.

But if we haven’t received these things ourselves, how can we give them to others? Apart from God, “the heart is deceitful above all things” ( Jer. 17:9 niv ). A marriage-saving love is not within us. A friendship-preserving devotion cannot be found in our hearts. We need help from an outside source. A transfusion. Would we love as God loves? Then we start by receiving God’s love.

We preachers have been guilty of skipping the first step. “Love each other!” we tell our churches. “Be patient, kind, forgiving,” we urge. But instructing people to love without telling them they are loved is like telling them to write a check without our making a deposit in their accounts.

No wonder so many relationships are overdrawn. Hearts have insufficient love. The apostle John models the right sequence. He makes a deposit before he tells us to write the check.

First, the deposit: God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. ( 1 John 4:9–10 nlt)

And then, having made such an outrageous, eye-opening deposit, John calls on you and me to pull out the checkbook: “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (v. 11 nlt).

The secret to loving is living loved. This is the forgotten first step in relationships. Remember Paul’s prayer? “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love” ( Eph. 3:17 nlt ). As a tree draws nutrients from the soil, we draw nourishment from the Father. But what if the tree has no contact with the soil?

I was thinking of this recently as I helped our daughter Tonia disassembled her Christmas tree (we have used a fake one for years). She had removed the ornaments and I helped carry out the tree, and sweep up all the needles. There are thousands of them! The tree is falling apart. Blame it on bad rooting. For two weeks this tree has been planted in a metal bowl. What comes from a tree holder?

Old Simon had the same problem. Impressive to look at, nicely decorated, but he falls apart when you give him a shove or two.

Does bumping into certain people leave you brittle, breakable, and fruitless? Do you easily fall apart? If so, your love may be grounded in the wrong soil. It may be rooted in their love (which is fickle) or in your resolve to love (which is frail). John urges us to “rely on the love God has for us” ( 1 John 4:16 niv, emphasis mine). He alone is the power source.

Many people tell us to love. Only God gives us the power to do so.

We know what God wants us to do. “This is what God commands: … that we love each other” ( 1 John 3:23). But how can we? How can we be kind to the vow breakers? To those who are unkind to us? How can we be patient with people who have the warmth of a vulture and the tenderness of a porcupine? How can we forgive the moneygrubbers and backstabbers we meet, love, and marry? How can we love as God loves? We want to. We long to. But how can we?

By living loved. By following the 7:47 Principle: Receive first, love second.

Want to give it a try? Let’s carry this principle up the Mount Everest of love writings. More than one person has hailed 1 Corinthians 13 as the finest chapter in the Bible. No words get to the heart of loving people like these verses.

And no verses get to the heart of the chapter like verses 4 through 8 .

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. ( niv )

Several years ago someone challenged me to replace the word love in this passage with my name. I did and became a liar. “Gary is patient, Gary is kind. Gary does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud.…” That’s enough! Stop right there! Those words are false. Gary is not patient. Gary is not kind. Ask my wife and kids. Gary can be an out-and-out clod! That’s my problem.

And for years that was my problem with this paragraph. It set a standard I could not meet. No one can meet it. No one, that is, except Christ. Does this passage not describe the measureless love of God? Let’s insert Christ’s name in place of the word love, and see if it rings true.

Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. Jesus is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.

Rather than let this scripture remind us of a love we cannot produce, let it remind us of a love we cannot resist—God’s love.

Some of you are so thirsty for this type of love. Those who should have loved you didn’t. Those who could have loved you didn’t. You were left at the hospital. Left at the altar. Left with an empty bed. Left with a broken heart. Left with your question “Does anybody love me?”

Please listen to heaven’s answer. God loves you. Personally. Powerfully. Passionately. Others have promised and failed. But God has promised and succeeded. He loves you with an unfailing love. And his love—if you will let it—can fill you and leave you with a love worth giving.

So come. Come thirsty and drink deeply. The person who comes to Christ must come with a broken and contrite heart.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Forgiveness

 

Six Things To Remember When We Are Treated Unfairly


How do you react when someone treats you unfairly? Let’s say someone double crosses you or cheats you. Maybe someone lies about you and your reputation is damaged. Perhaps your boss chews you out for something you know you didn’t do or singles you out because he doesn’t like what you stand for. What is your typical response? Do you…

unfair

  • Retreat into a depression?
  • Withdraw from human interaction?
  • Look for a way to get even?
  • Vow that you’ll never do anything nice for anyone again?
  • Cheat the next guy down the line because you conclude that it’s a dog-eat-dog world?
  • Become so cynical about the world that you no longer enjoy life?

These responses are all too common. As Christians, we are called by God to be different from the world and this is one area where that difference can really show.

 THE FIRST THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT THIS LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

I suppose some of you might think it is redundant for me to say that, but it never ceases to amaze me that so many Christians get so upset when things don’t come out even.

Whoever said that this life was fair, anyway? I’m not aware of any Bible verse that teaches such a thing. Of course, God will ultimately even things out at the judgment – a point the Bible makes often – but in the here-and-now there are no guarantees. In fact, in a fallen world like ours, with mankind corrupted by a sinful nature and God allowing freedom of choice, it only follows that things are not going to be fair all the time.

Yet, it bugs us, doesn’t it? It bugs me! The bad guy sometimes wins. The criminal gets off Scot-free. The ladder climber who steps on everyone in his path gets the penthouse. The politician lies and gets away with it because the economy is good.

I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t do whatever we can when we can to make things right. I’m simply saying that sometimes making things even is beyond what we can do. At that point, so that we don’t go insane at the unbalanced nature of it all, we need to remember that we live in a fallen world and until God redeems this place from the curse and removes sin, it’s not always going to be fair.

I’m not recommending defeatism or fatalism here. I’m simply trying to be realistic. Don’t set your expectations too high. In this life, no matter how you live or what you do, life isn’t always going to be fair.

Matthew 20 teaches us that lesson: a worker who worked only one hour received the same pay that another worker who had been there sincer 9 a.m. received!

 THE SECOND THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT HAPPENS IN YOU IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU.

Things are going to happen in this life that we are powerless to change. We usually cannot rearrange someone else’s behavior toward us, nor can we undo the moments in which someone has hurt us. Maybe it can be prevented next time, but once it has happened, it has happened. There is no backing up.

If we keep reliving the unhappy moment and devote endless hours to appealing the verdict of a wrongdoing in our minds, we will be left spent and miserable. Though it is sometimes hard to see, time passed in the courtroom of our mind trying the case over and over is really time wasted. Even though we’re sure the verdict is guilty, there is usually no way to bring about justice in this life without becoming guilty ourselves. Our best (and sometimes only) recourse is to ask the Lord to change our inner life – to use this evil to bring about good in us.

We’ve seen that Joseph knew this truth. For all that was done to him by his brothers, he could have died a bitter and unhappy man. He didn’t do that though. At some point along the way he decided he would concentrate his energies on being the best person that he could be for God in whatever circumstance he found himself. Over the process of a lifetime, because of this attitude, God could take him from a pit to a palace. One has to wonder how different it might have been had Joseph chosen to spend endless hours licking his wounds and rehearsing his hurts. After 23 years of living with this choice of betterness rather than bitterness, as his brothers stood before him in a position where revenge could have been a snap-of-the-fingers away, his verdict was this: “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

Suppose you hold a glass of water as you walk towards me. I carelessly (or deliberately) bump into you. Whatever you have in the glass will probably spill out.

That is the way our lives are. When we are bumped, whatever is inside comes out. For most of us, an injustice done to us personally is a very jarring bump. Sadly, it is disgraceful sometimes the things that spill out.

God wants the things inside the glass cleaned up. From time to time He will allow us to be bumped, sometimes quite forcefully and unjustly, to reveal what is there. A life where the work of the Holy Spirit has been neglected will reveal a cup full of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, faction, and envy. God wants all of that to change. What happens in you is far more important than what happens to you.

THE THIRD THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT GOD IS WATCHING TO SEE WHAT YOU WILL DO.

There is more happening when an injustice is done to us than just the unpleasantness of the moment. God is watching to see what we will do and He sees it all, from beginning to end. As the Scripture clearly reveals, He is testing us. There are so many verses on this subject that I hesitate to pick just one, however, there is a passage that I have found quite helpful at such times. Maybe it can help you.

(1 Pet. 2:19-20) says, “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

God is watching to see how we handle unjust suffering.  So what does God want us to do when we suffer unjustly? These verses tell us that it finds favor with God if we “bear up under the pain of unjust suffering.” When we suffer, lets make God proud by enduring the pain and handling it properly.

THE FOURTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU MUST NOT BOW TO BITTERNESS.

All of us need to set some standards for ourselves. We need to draw the line in the sand and say, “Beyond this point I will not go – not for comfort – not for security – not for revenge – not for anything!

 Paul wrote to the Ephesians “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph. 4:31).

 You see there is no part of “all” that allows for an exception. God wants all the bitterness out of you and me.

 ILLUSTRATION:

A doctor told a man that he had rabies. Upon hearing the diagnosis, he took out a piece of paper and started writing on it. The doctor thought, “Oh, he must be making up his will,” so he asked, “What are you doing, making up your will?” The man said, “No, I’m just writing down every person I’m going to bite.”

 Sadly, that is how some folks handle injustice. They are so bitter that they bite everyone else around them. We must never bow to bitterness.

 solidarityTHE FIFTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT YOU DO IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HOW YOU FEEL.

God has spelled out what our behavior is to be in the kind of situation we’re discussing in many places in Scripture. I’ll mention just a few:

 Matthew   5:44 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”

 Luke   6:27-28 says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…”

Romans   12:20 says, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink..”

 

It isn’t particularly difficult to figure out what these verses say we must do. The difficult part is our feelings, isn’t it? Why is it so hard…

  • To get on our knees and pray for that person whose carelessness or neglect caused us so much pain?
  • To go down to the store and buy a gift and send it to that person whom we know must hate us?
  • To say something that blesses them rather than cursing them under our breath?

The answer is simple. Every feeling in our bodies is screaming that it isn’t right!

Ah! We’ve come to an important crossroad in this matter. We’ve come to the place where we learn whether we’re serious about our faith or not. The true Christian will strive to do what is right even if his/her feelings aren’t in favor of it.

Many of us have yet to learn this very important part of our faith. Doing the right thing isn’t always the thing that makes us feel good at the moment.

Many of the things God has called us to do require us to go against our feelings for the moment. “Love your enemies?” Who feels like doing that?

But, you see the Christian knows that actions lead, feelings follow. Want to see an example?

 John   3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son….”

 God loved us so much that He gave His Son. How do you suppose that made God feel? Was He jumping for joy when His Son hung suffering on the cross? What do you think would have happened had God acted on His feelings that day rather than His loving commitment to offer a way for the world to be saved?

The right thing isn’t always the thing that feels good at the moment. Actions lead, feelings follow. Where did the good feelings come in then, when Jesus died on the cross? They came later, after the sacrifice had been made and people were coming to God because of what Jesus did!

Hebrews   12:2 says exactly that: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…”

 The joy followed the cross. It didn’t come prior or during. Likewise, the good feelings that result from our doing right usually come after the act, not before. If we wait around in the beginning, hoping to get our feelings to go along with our actions, we’ll seldom do what is right.

How about it?  Are you returning good for evil? Are you turning the other cheek when it is appropriate? Are you walking the second mile? Are you praying for that person who has hurt you so? Are you, like God, allowing whatever blessings you have in your life to fall on the just and the unjust, or are you selective, based on the records you’ve kept of wrongs done against you? Are you blessing rather than cursing? (The word “bless” in this case means literally, “to speak well of.”)

 “But I don’t feel like it!” Welcome to the world of discipleship. It’s that way for all of us.

 THE SIXTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU ARE STILL THE BIGGER DEBTOR.

In (Matthew 18), Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a king ten million dollars. There was no way he could pay his debt and in that day, there was no bankruptcy – only debtor’s prison or slavery. As he was about to be thrown into prison, he begged the King to give him another chance and more time to pay. The King listened to his pleading and felt mercy for him. He didn’t just give him more time to pay. He completely forgave the debt. The man walked away free.

You probably know the rest of the story. As soon as he got home he found someone who owed him a few hundred dollars. The man didn’t have the money, so this man who had just been forgiven a debt of millions of dollars had his own debtor thrown into prison. After all, it’s only just. “It’s what the man had coming for what he did to me. He should learn to pay his debts on time! It’s his fault. Fair is fair, right?”

Then the King got word of the whole thing. He was angry and resummoned the man he had forgiven just a short time before. To make the long story short, he called the unforgiving man “wicked” and reinstated his millions of dollars of debt. The man went to prison until he could pay it off – which, of course, was never. He went to prison for the rest of his life.

Then Jesus said, “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

 My friends, no matter whom might wrong us, we are still the bigger debtor. We always will be. God has forgiven a huge debt that we could never pay on our own. Because of that, is it really that much for God to ask us to overlook some of these hurts we experience here? I think not.

 Are you one who feels you must even the score here? Then expect God to even the score on you when you get to judgment.

 CONCLUSION 

A certain tenant farmer had worked hard for many years to improve the production of the land he leased. Then something happened that caused him to become very bitter. When it was time to renew his lease, the owner told him he was going to sell the farm to his son who was getting married. The tenant made several generous offers to buy it himself, hoping the man’s decision would be reversed, but his pleading got nowhere.

As the day drew near for the farmer to vacate his home, his weeks of angry brooding finally got the best of him. He gathered seeds from some of the most pesky and noxious weeds he could find. Then he spent many hours scattering them on the clean, fertile soil of the farm, along with a lot of trash and rocks he had collected.

To his dismay, the very next morning the owner informed him that plans for his son’s wedding had fallen through, and therefore he would be happy to renew the lease. He couldn’t understand why the farmer exclaimed in agonizing tones, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 Try as we might to even up the score when we’re treated unfairly, the result for us will be the same as it was for that tenant farmer. At the end, we’ll exclaim, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 

A study of Forgiveness: The Need to Forgive…Is He Talking To Me?


(Appreciation to Marvin Bryant for many insights into this subject matter)

Vengeance is popular today; forgiveness is not. Retaliation is heralded as an inalienable right of f personal freedom. Like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, some would love it to “make my day” and allow them to gain revenge.

Those who regularly are involved in counseling with church members find one thing: most troublesome problems would be significantly diminished (and in some cases solved completely) by a right understanding of what Scripture says about forgiveness. Of course, they would also need to heed God’s direction!

forgiveness (2)Some of us may not have anyone we need to forgive, & if so, praise God! That’s a wonderful thing. Others of us know full well we have someone we need to forgive. But I am concerned that there are also those of us, & this might include you, who need to forgive someone but we don’t realize that we do.

 (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. {24} See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

How do we tell whether we need to forgive someone?

Who has wronged you? If you already have an answer, you may not have forgiven them.

Who has hurt you very deeply in your life? If there is someone, you may or may not have forgiven them, but that person is a likely candidate for someone you haven’t forgiven. If you have been deeply hurt or wronged, I want you to know that whatever happened was wrong & your anger about it was righteous anger, at least in the beginning. But even so, if the anger & hurt still linger, you may need prayer for healing & you may also need to forgive.

Do you feel resentment or a grudge toward anyone? Or maybe someone you can’t stand to be around or that you avoid?

Is there anyone you feel does not deserve to be forgiven? Do you feel you have justifiable resentment?  Augustine once said, “There was never an angry man who thought his anger unjustified.” Gary Inrig compares non-forgiveness to spiritual anorexia. The person becomes convinced that the very thing that is God’s provision for heath is really something dangerous and to be avoided. Even as her body wastes away, she clings to the notion that eating is bad for her. It is a delusion that kills slowly but surely. So is an unwillingness to forgive.

Do you have a case against someone, perhaps a case that you keep trying to prove to others? Someone you’re consumed with?

If you think you even might have someone to forgive, I want you to know it is possible to do–you can forgive them. God doesn’t ask us to do something we are not capable of doing. What’s more, you get to forgive them!

One of the real keys is for us to see clearly how important it is to do so. Let me share several reasons why we need to forgive.

God said to.

(Luke 23:34 NIV)  “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

(Eph 4:32 NIV)  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

(Col 3:13 NIV)  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Our own forgiveness depends on it.

(Mat 18:21-22 NIV)  “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” {22} Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

(Mat 18:35 NIV)  “”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””

(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.””

If you receive grace, you’ll pass it on. If you harden your heart, you either forfeit his grace or never had it to begin with. You cannot take a grudge to heaven.

To restore relationships.

We need relationships; we were made for relationships. And we need to try to make all our relationships good. The trouble is none of the humans who are available to have a relationship with is perfect. The only way to get along is to forgive. Since we are not perfect, we couldn’t have a relationship with God—but he forgave us so we could have a relationship with him. That’s exactly why we need to forgive—so we can have relationships. It will be possible without them.

For our own spiritual, emotional, & physical health.

This is huge. Researchers have discovered direct links between forgiveness and physical & emotional health. Not forgiving almost inevitably leads to chronic anger & stress, both of which are toxic. It leads to higher rates of stress-related disorders, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, clinical depression, lower immune system function, & higher divorce rates. Some evidence it also decreases neurological function & decreases memory.

Holding on to resentment and failing to forgive leads to anxiety, depression, and stress. Stress can take a huge toll on the body, leading to ulcers, backache, and a weak immune system.

Stress is responsible for 75 percent to 90 percent of Americans’ doctor visits, according to the American Institute for Stress. It is no mystery why this insidious biological response has been called America’s number one health problem.

Chronic stress — the type that eats away at you little by little over time – is the worst variety. Having no redeeming qualities (unlike acute stress, which may rev you up when you need the extra energy boost), chronic stress has been linked to a host of major illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, depression, autoimmune diseases and reproductive problems, along with more minor maladies like stomach upset, back pain, headaches and fatigue.

For the health of our marriages, families, friends, & church.

There might be marriages in our congregations that are going to disintegrate unless someone finds a way to forgive. There are families that will collapse, unless someone finds a way to forgive.  There are friendships that will unravel, unless someone decides to forgive. There are groups that will split, unless someone forgives.

The bitterness & resentment we feel will also alienate us & cut us off from others. It will make us suspicious & fearful of relationships. It will isolate us. Unforgiveness destroys community. Churches ought to be a no-debt zone, but it’s not always so.

So for these reasons, we really, really must forgive.  (Heb 12:14-15 NIV)  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. {15} See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

The following check-up was developed from a longer test created by Susan Wade Brown, Ph.D., as part of her doctoral dissertation in psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, CA., edited by Robert Enright, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin.

Think about the specific person you want to measure your forgiveness toward. Rate each item to the extent that the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors match your own.

0 = Strongly disagree 1 = Disagree 2 = Neutral 3 = Agree 4 = Strongly agree

1. I’m going to get even.

2. I’ll make them pay.

3. I replay the offense in my mind, dwelling on it.

4. I think about them with anger.

5. I can understand where they are coming from.

6. I have a clear ability to see their good points.

7. I prayed for them, asking God to bless them.

8. I told God I forgive them.

9. My resentment is gone.

10. I feel peace.

11. I keep as much distance between us as possible.

12. I live as if they don’t exist, or never existed.

13. I looked for the source of the problem and tried to correct it.

14. I took steps toward reconciliation: wrote them, called them, showed concern.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2019 in Forgiveness

 

A Guiding Principle in the Issue of Love Luke 7:36–50: “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love”


The present passage contrasts the attitudes of a sinful but repentant woman and the selfforgiveness-righteous. It needs to be studied carefully, for self-righteousness is a serious sin. It is both common and damning.

Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner. Note several things. Simon invited Jesus to his house, but he did not extend to Jesus the common courtesies (Luke 7:44-46). He was rude to the Lord. He was not even sure Jesus was a prophet, much less the Messiah (Luke 7:39).

Why then did he invite Jesus to his house? We do not know; nothing is said as to why. The best speculation is that Simon enjoyed the company of celebrities, and he had heard so much about Jesus that he wanted to meet and talk with Him on an informal and friendly basis.

Jesus ate with both sinners and religionists (Pharisees) (Luke 5:29-30). No one was excluded from His attention or love, even when they lacked the common everyday courtesies and respect (Luke 7:44-46). He sought every man.

The house of Simon was a house of the rich. The rich always had an open courtyard, usually in the center of the house; that is, the house was built around an open courtyard. Sometimes the host would allow the public to stand around in the courtyard and listen to the discussions, in particular when a rabbi or some celebrity was the chief guest.

Notice the attitude of the repentant. The woman was a sinner, a prostitute. She demonstrated what a sinner has to do in coming to Jesus.

She sensed a desperate need. She was either convicted of her sin while hearing Jesus or else she had heard Him before and came under heavy conviction. His plea for men and women to repent and prepare for the Kingdom of God pierced her heart. She knew she was a sinner: unclean, lost, condemned. The guilt and weight of her sin was more than she could bear. She ached for forgiveness and cleansing, for freedom and liberty.

She approached the Lord despite all. She knew that the public scorned and gossiped about her, and the so-called decent people wanted nothing to do with her. What would Jesus do—He who said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest….” (Matthew 11:28-30)?

She knew that if she was recognized, the Pharisee might throw her out of the house. He knew about her (Luke 7:39). She thought about the situation, and her thinking turned into hope, and her hope into belief. Surely He who offered such an invitation would receive her.

Before anyone could stop her, she rushed to Jesus and stood behind Him at His feet. (Remember, in the East people reclined to eat. They rested on their left arm facing each other around the table with their body and feet extending out away from the table.)

She surrendered to the Lord in utter humility. Standing there, she was overcome with conviction and emotion. She fell at Jesus’ feet weeping—so broken that tears just flowed from her eyes. She unwound her hair and wiped and kissed Jesus’ feet. Seldom has such love and devotion been shown Jesus.

There was only one thing that could make a prostitute enter a Pharisee’s home—desperation. She was gripped with a sense of lostness, of helplessness, of urgency.

The loosening of her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet was forbidden of women in public. She must have been so desperate she was totally oblivious to the onlookers. The point is this: she was surrendering her heart and life to the Lord, begging Him to forgive her. She was so broken she was unable to speak, but Jesus knew her heart. Words were not necessary (Luke 7:47-48).

She loved much, giving her most precious possession. Perfume was highly valued by women of that day. Apparently, by describing the perfume as he does, Luke is stressing the expense of the perfume and the great sacrifice she was making. It was probably the most costly possession she had, so she was giving it to her Lord. However, there is something more important here. Note what she did with the perfume. She anointed her Lord; anointed His feet in a supreme act of humility and love and surrender.

The behavior of the self-righteous man revealed several things.

     1. The man was considerate, but self-righteous. Note, he only thought these things; he would not say them publicly lest he embarrass his guests. (How like the self-righteous!)

     2. The man considered himself better. He felt he was better than the sinful woman, so he would never allow her to touch him. He would keep his distance, ignore, and have nothing to do with her. But note something else. He considered his judgment and knowledge, opinions and behavior to be better than others. He expected others (Jesus) to judge and act as he did. He thought that if Jesus only knew who the lady was, then He would reject her.

     3. The man sensed no need for forgiveness and repentance. He thought of himself as good enough in two areas.

a. He was good enough in religion. Note he was a Pharisee, a man who had given his life to practice religion. If anyone was ever good enough, he should have been.

b. He was good enough in behavior. He was well behaved, decent and moral, just and equitable, respected and highly esteemed. He was not immoral; in fact, he would have nothing to do with immorality. He had not and never would commit a sin that would be publicly condemned. Therefore, he felt as though he had done nothing for which he needed forgiveness.

Jesus told a parable about two debtors. Note several things that say much to the self-righteous.

     1. Jesus announced that He had something to say, something critically important. Undivided attention was needed. Every self-righteous person needs to listen and listen closely.

     2. Jesus was a prophet and more—He was the Son of God; therefore, He not only knew the people who were sitting around Him, He knew their every thought. Note that from this point on, Jesus was answering the thoughts of Simon. Simon had never said a word about Jesus not knowing who the woman was nor about his own question about Jesus being a prophet. Simon had only been thinking these thoughts “within himself” (Luke 7:39).

Jesus is the Son of God; therefore, what a man thinks pales into insignificance when facing the One who knows all thoughts, including what one really thinks and feels within. Jesus knows the truth of every thought and feeling within a man. If a person is self-righteous, Jesus knows it. If a person is repentant, truly repentant, Jesus knows it. No one hides anything, no feeling, no thought from Him.

     3. The meaning of the parable is strikingly clear. A glance at the verses and points in the outline show this. Note how clearly the parable illustrates the grace of God in freely forgiving sin (salvation) (cp. Ephes. 1:7; Ephes. 2:8-9; John 2:1-2).

What was the overwhelming need of the self-righteous? To really see Jesus, who the repentant say He is. Note what Jesus asked Simon, “Seest thou this woman, this repentant?” The repentant had much to teach the self-righteous about Jesus. The repentant really sees Jesus, who He really is.

     1. Jesus was the One who deserved more than common courtesies. The host usually showed respect by providing water for the guests to wash their dusty, sandaled feet. The kiss was the accepted greeting among friends, and oil was usually given for honored guests to refresh themselves after travelling under the hot sun. It was expensive, so it was usually reserved for honored guests.

a. Jesus deserved more than common respect (water); He deserved a worshipful respect. He was seen as Lord and was respected as Lord by the repentant. He was the One who alone could meet the needs of the human heart; therefore, He was the One who was to be worshipped. The self-righteous needed to learn this.

b. Jesus deserved more than a common greeting; He deserved a humble, brokenhearted greeting. He was approached with a sense of unworthiness and humility. The repentant saw the worthiness of Jesus and grasped something of His awesome person as the Son of God and as the sovereign Lord of the universe; therefore, He was the One to whom all men owed their allegiance, the One who alone had the power to forgive and accept men. The repentant saw Jesus as the One who alone could help her, the One who alone had the power to help, so the repentant approached Jesus and greeted Him with a deep sense of humility and unworthiness. The self-righteous needed to learn this.

c. Jesus deserved more than a common gift; He deserved a sacrificial gift. He was seen as the hope and Savior of one’s life, so the repentant gave Jesus her life, all she was and had. The repentant surrendered her life and gave the most precious gift she had to anoint her Lord. The self-righteous needed to learn this.

     2. Jesus was the One who had the power to forgive sins. Three simple facts are imporant here.

a. The woman’s sins were many. Jesus did not overlook her sins, nor the seriousness of them. After all it was her sins and the sins of others that brought about His humiliation, His having to come to this sinful world and to die for the sins of men. However, He forgave her sins despite their awfulness. Every sinner should note this carefully.

b. Self-righteousness sensed the need for little forgiveness; therefore, the self-righteous loved little. The self-righteous had only a formal, distant relationship with God. His relationship was cold, having only a small sense of sin and sensing only a little need for forgiveness. It was enough to have Jesus present at his table (the table was about the only place many acknowledged His presence).

The self-righteous approach to God…

  • has only a little sense of sin; therefore senses only a little need for forgiveness.
  • is blinded to man’s state of sin, to man’s true being, that of being short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
  • has little sense of the need for special mercy and grace, is blinded to God’s Sovereign Majesty and Person.
  • has only a formal, distant relationship with God, has little personal relationship with God.
  • gives little honor to God, makes little sacrifice for God.

c. Jesus forgave sin. He had the power to forgive the sins of this repentant.

     3. Jesus was the One whom people needed to ask about.

     4. Jesus was the One who did save the repentant. The woman believed Christ to be the Savior, the One who could forgive her sins. Therefore, Christ saved her.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2018 in Forgiveness

 

Some Pictures of Forgiveness


Removing offense far, far away from us (Ps 103:12)

forgiveness (1)(Psalm 103:12 NIV)  “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

 Putting offenses behind our backs (Isa. 38:17)

(Isa 38:17 NIV)  “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.”

 Blotting out what was done  (Isa. 43:25; Psalm 51:1, 9)

(Isa 43:25 NIV)  “”I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

 (Psa 51:1 NIV)  ” Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.”

 (Psa 51:9 NIV)  “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.”

 Casting the offense in the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19)

(Micah 7:19 NIV)  “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

It means releasing the resentment, hatred, bitterness, ill-will & desire for revenge.  It means you don’t hold a grudge, or cherish bitterness or harbor any desire to harm them. It means dropping the case we have against them.

Does have to be from the heart (Mat 18:35 NIV)  “”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””). Can’t just say the words. This is difficult to determine sometimes because we can’t necessarily keep ourselves from having primary feelings like anger. But we can make choices, including the choice to let go of the things that anger often leads to, like resentment, hatred, bitterness, & ill will.

It also means we stop trying to make them pay (we cancelled the debt so we can’t demand any more payments). We stop exacting psychological payment. If we forgive, we don’t bring it up anymore—to that person or anyone else, & we stop trying to make them pay. Both are wrong!

Does mean we stop dwelling on what was done to us. We may not be able to forget what happened and our mind may go there once in a while, but forgiveness does mean we don’t dwell on it anymore. It is taking the arrows out of our gut instead of continuing to twist them around inside of us. Whereas before we may have nurtured that hurt to keep it active & alive. But now we refused to do that. That may take some prayer to keep releasing it to God, but we don’t let our mind stay there.

Does mean treat them with love, even if we don’t feel it. Feelings are important, but they are not what we base our decisions on. We forgive because it is the right and healthy thing to do, and then we treat the person with love. When God forgives us, he doesn’t wait to see how it’s going to go before he starts to bless us again.

It does mean we are opening a door for reconciliation. That’s one of the purposes. God’s people are supposed to be reconciled to each other. We can’t say ok I forgive you but I never want to see you again. Doesn’t mean you have to be the best of friends, but it does mean you tear down the walls. And remember, reconciliation takes two people—they have to be open to it as well.

Does mean we’ll have to take responsibility for our own happiness & we’ll have to change. As long as we’re resentful we give ourselves an excuse not to do the hard work of looking at ourselves and changing our own lives. Perhaps that’s another reason why God tells us to forgive.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in Forgiveness

 

How 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.””

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

 

Six Things To Remember When We Are Treated Unfairly


How do you react when someone treats you unfairly? Let’s say someone double crosses you or cheats you. Maybe someone lies about you and your reputation is damaged. Perhaps your boss chews you out for something you know you didn’t do or singles you out because he doesn’t like what you stand for. What is your typical response? Do you…

unfair

  • Retreat into a depression?
  • Withdraw from human interaction?
  • Look for a way to get even?
  • Vow that you’ll never do anything nice for anyone again?
  • Cheat the next guy down the line because you conclude that it’s a dog-eat-dog world?
  • Become so cynical about the world that you no longer enjoy life?

These responses are all too common. As Christians, we are called by God to be different from the world and this is one area where that difference can really show.

 THE FIRST THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT THIS LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

I suppose some of you might think it is redundant for me to say that, but it never ceases to amaze me that so many Christians get so upset when things don’t come out even.

Whoever said that this life was fair, anyway? I’m not aware of any Bible verse that teaches such a thing. Of course, God will ultimately even things out at the judgment – a point the Bible makes often – but in the here-and-now there are no guarantees. In fact, in a fallen world like ours, with mankind corrupted by a sinful nature and God allowing freedom of choice, it only follows that things are not going to be fair all the time.

Yet, it bugs us, doesn’t it? It bugs me! The bad guy sometimes wins. The criminal gets off Scot-free. The ladder climber who steps on everyone in his path gets the penthouse. The politician lies and gets away with it because the economy is good.

I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t do whatever we can when we can to make things right. I’m simply saying that sometimes making things even is beyond what we can do. At that point, so that we don’t go insane at the unbalanced nature of it all, we need to remember that we live in a fallen world and until God redeems this place from the curse and removes sin, it’s not always going to be fair.

I’m not recommending defeatism or fatalism here. I’m simply trying to be realistic. Don’t set your expectations too high. In this life, no matter how you live or what you do, life isn’t always going to be fair.

 THE SECOND THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT HAPPENS IN YOU IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU.

Things are going to happen in this life that we are powerless to change. We usually cannot rearrange someone else’s behavior toward us, nor can we undo the moments in which someone has hurt us. Maybe it can be prevented next time, but once it has happened, it has happened. There is no backing up.

If we keep reliving the unhappy moment and devote endless hours to appealing the verdict of a wrongdoing in our minds, we will be left spent and miserable. Though it is sometimes hard to see, time passed in the courtroom of our mind trying the case over and over is really time wasted. Even though we’re sure the verdict is guilty, there is usually no way to bring about justice in this life without becoming guilty ourselves. Our best (and sometimes only) recourse is to ask the Lord to change our inner life – to use this evil to bring about good in us.

We’ve seen that Joseph knew this truth. For all that was done to him by his brothers, he could have died a bitter and unhappy man. He didn’t do that though. At some point along the way he decided he would concentrate his energies on being the best person that he could be for God in whatever circumstance he found himself. Over the process of a lifetime, because of this attitude, God could take him from a pit to a palace. One has to wonder how different it might have been had Joseph chosen to spend endless hours licking his wounds and rehearsing his hurts. After 23 years of living with this choice of betterness rather than bitterness, as his brothers stood before him in a position where revenge could have been a snap-of-the-fingers away, his verdict was this: “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

Suppose you hold a glass of water as you walk towards me. I carelessly (or deliberately) bump into you. Whatever you have in the glass will probably spill out.

That is the way our lives are. When we are bumped, whatever is inside comes out. For most of us, an injustice done to us personally is a very jarring bump. Sadly, it is disgraceful sometimes the things that spill out.

God wants the things inside the glass cleaned up. From time to time He will allow us to be bumped, sometimes quite forcefully and unjustly, to reveal what is there. A life where the work of the Holy Spirit has been neglected will reveal a cup full of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, faction, and envy. God wants all of that to change. What happens in you is far more important than what happens to you.

THE THIRD THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT GOD IS WATCHING TO SEE WHAT YOU WILL DO.

There is more happening when an injustice is done to us than just the unpleasantness of the moment. God is watching to see what we will do and He sees it all, from beginning to end. As the Scripture clearly reveals, He is testing us. There are so many verses on this subject that I hesitate to pick just one, however, there is a passage that I have found quite helpful at such times. Maybe it can help you.

(1 Pet. 2:19-20) says, “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

God is watching to see how we handle unjust suffering.  So what does God want us to do when we suffer unjustly? These verses tell us that it finds favor with God if we “bear up under the pain of unjust suffering.” When we suffer, lets make God proud by enduring the pain and handling it properly.

THE FOURTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU MUST NOT BOW TO BITTERNESS.

All of us need to set some standards for ourselves. We need to draw the line in the sand and say, “Beyond this point I will not go – not for comfort – not for security – not for revenge – not for anything!

 Paul wrote to the Ephesians “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph. 4:31).

 You see there is no part of “all” that allows for an exception. God wants all the bitterness out of you and me.

 ILLUSTRATION:

A doctor told a man that he had rabies. Upon hearing the diagnosis, he took out a piece of paper and started writing on it. The doctor thought, “Oh, he must be making up his will,” so he asked, “What are you doing, making up your will?” The man said, “No, I’m just writing down every person I’m going to bite.”

 Sadly, that is how some folks handle injustice. They are so bitter that they bite everyone else around them. We must never bow to bitterness.

 solidarityTHE FIFTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT YOU DO IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HOW YOU FEEL.

God has spelled out what our behavior is to be in the kind of situation we’re discussing in many places in Scripture. I’ll mention just a few:

 Matthew   5:44 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”

 Luke   6:27-28 says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…”

Romans   12:20 says, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink..”

 

It isn’t particularly difficult to figure out what these verses say we must do. The difficult part is our feelings, isn’t it? Why is it so hard…

  • To get on our knees and pray for that person whose carelessness or neglect caused us so much pain?
  • To go down to the store and buy a gift and send it to that person whom we know must hate us?
  • To say something that blesses them rather than cursing them under our breath?

The answer is simple. Every feeling in our bodies is screaming that it isn’t right!

Ah! We’ve come to an important crossroad in this matter. We’ve come to the place where we learn whether we’re serious about our faith or not. The true Christian will strive to do what is right even if his/her feelings aren’t in favor of it.

Many of us have yet to learn this very important part of our faith. Doing the right thing isn’t always the thing that makes us feel good at the moment.

Many of the things God has called us to do require us to go against our feelings for the moment. “Love your enemies?” Who feels like doing that?

But, you see the Christian knows that actions lead, feelings follow. Want to see an example?

 John   3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son….”

 God loved us so much that He gave His Son. How do you suppose that made God feel? Was He jumping for joy when His Son hung suffering on the cross? What do you think would have happened had God acted on His feelings that day rather than His loving commitment to offer a way for the world to be saved?

The right thing isn’t always the thing that feels good at the moment. Actions lead, feelings follow. Where did the good feelings come in then, when Jesus died on the cross? They came later, after the sacrifice had been made and people were coming to God because of what Jesus did!

Hebrews   12:2 says exactly that: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…”

 The joy followed the cross. It didn’t come prior or during. Likewise, the good feelings that result from our doing right usually come after the act, not before. If we wait around in the beginning, hoping to get our feelings to go along with our actions, we’ll seldom do what is right.

How about it?  Are you returning good for evil? Are you turning the other cheek when it is appropriate? Are you walking the second mile? Are you praying for that person who has hurt you so? Are you, like God, allowing whatever blessings you have in your life to fall on the just and the unjust, or are you selective, based on the records you’ve kept of wrongs done against you? Are you blessing rather than cursing? (The word “bless” in this case means literally, “to speak well of.”)

 “But I don’t feel like it!” Welcome to the world of discipleship. It’s that way for all of us.

 THE SIXTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU ARE STILL THE BIGGER DEBTOR.

In (Matthew 18), Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a king ten million dollars. There was no way he could pay his debt and in that day, there was no bankruptcy – only debtor’s prison or slavery. As he was about to be thrown into prison, he begged the King to give him another chance and more time to pay. The King listened to his pleading and felt mercy for him. He didn’t just give him more time to pay. He completely forgave the debt. The man walked away free.

You probably know the rest of the story. As soon as he got home he found someone who owed him a few hundred dollars. The man didn’t have the money, so this man who had just been forgiven a debt of millions of dollars had his own debtor thrown into prison. After all, it’s only just. “It’s what the man had coming for what he did to me. He should learn to pay his debts on time! It’s his fault. Fair is fair, right?”

Then the King got word of the whole thing. He was angry and resummoned the man he had forgiven just a short time before. To make the long story short, he called the unforgiving man “wicked” and reinstated his millions of dollars of debt. The man went to prison until he could pay it off – which, of course, was never. He went to prison for the rest of his life.

Then Jesus said, “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

 My friends, no matter whom might wrong us, we are still the bigger debtor. We always will be. God has forgiven a huge debt that we could never pay on our own. Because of that, is it really that much for God to ask us to overlook some of these hurts we experience here? I think not.

 Are you one who feels you must even the score here? Then expect God to even the score on you when you get to judgment.

 CONCLUSION 

A certain tenant farmer had worked hard for many years to improve the production of the land he leased. Then something happened that caused him to become very bitter. When it was time to renew his lease, the owner told him he was going to sell the farm to his son who was getting married. The tenant made several generous offers to buy it himself, hoping the man’s decision would be reversed, but his pleading got nowhere.

As the day drew near for the farmer to vacate his home, his weeks of angry brooding finally got the best of him. He gathered seeds from some of the most pesky and noxious weeds he could find. Then he spent many hours scattering them on the clean, fertile soil of the farm, along with a lot of trash and rocks he had collected.

To his dismay, the very next morning the owner informed him that plans for his son’s wedding had fallen through, and therefore he would be happy to renew the lease. He couldn’t understand why the farmer exclaimed in agonizing tones, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 Try as we might to even up the score when we’re treated unfairly, the result for us will be the same as it was for that tenant farmer. At the end, we’ll exclaim, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2018 in Encouragement, Forgiveness

 
 
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