Forgiven - Forgive!

Bible Book: Matthew  6 : 12-15
Subject: Revenge; Grudge, Forgiving Others
Introduction

Living with guilt is debilitating and defeating. I love the story of a young boy named William Posters. He stole an apple one day and began to walk home eating it. Just then he noticed a sign on a tree that said, "Bill Posters Will Be Prosecuted." The sign spoke of people who put up unauthorized posters being prosecuted, but the boy, in his guilt, thought he had already been caught. He went straight home and told his parents. It was both serious and funny. The boy was forgiven and had learned a great lesson regarding guilt and the need to be rid of it as soon as possible.

There is something wonderful about forgiveness, but what about forgiving others? Now that is a different matter altogether! In order to be blessed, we must learn to bless others. Let’s consider this subject tonight by turning to Matthew 6:12-15:

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Jesus spoke about this subject on more than one occasion, and it is mentioned in other Bible verses repeatedly, which means that it is a serious subject for the people of God.

Carrying a grudge is the act of not forgiving others the wrongs they have done against you or those you love and care about. When we feel hurt by someone, it creates what Jesus calls a kind of “debt”. They owe us something and we mean to get paid – or get revenge. The problem with this attitude is that it does not fit in the pattern that God has set for us through His Son. After all, He forgave us a debt that we could never pay – the debt of our sins. He expects us to live godly lives and that requires that we act toward people the way He has acted toward us. I know that is a far too simple way to state the issue, but it does give us a sense of God’s will for us in matters pertaining to forgiveness of others.

Let’s look at three important issues regarding forgiveness.

I. An Irrational Expectation

It was 1997 and some students at a high school in Paducah, Kentucky, has just finished praying. A young student with a gun came down the hall and started shooting at the Christian young people who had been praying. One fifteen year old young girl was shot, taken to the hospital and later pronounced to be a paraplegic from the gunshot wounds. Her life, in essence, had been devastated in those few moments. What did the fifteen year old Christian young woman do? She sent word to the gunman, who was in custody saying, "I forgive you."

That story did not get much circulation, but it is true. Melissa Jenkins forgave the person who shot her and caused her to be paralyzed for the rest of her life. That is not rational.

In June of 2015, Dylann Roof went to a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He pulled a gun and shot nine people in the predominately black church. What happened afterward is amazing. The families of those killed spoke of forgiveness and grace rather than rioting or burning down buildings. They did not call for the lynching of Roof. They spoke to the media with calm words. Of course, they want the court to carry out its duty in regard to the killer, but they held no personal animus toward him. That attitude, to many people in the world today, is irrational.

Does God really require that of us – does He ask us to forgive what seems to be the unforgiveable? Does He require us to forgive people who do terrible things to us? Let’s get a handle on the answer.

There are two factors at work here. First, we are not told to forgive those who do not ask us to forgive them. However, we are told not to hold a grudge or to try to get revenge even toward those who do not ask for our forgiveness. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:15 that we are not to treat people the way they treat us.

When Stephen died, being stoned by the Jews, he cried out to God that He did not wish for God to hold them responsible for the act they were committing. He did not say to them, “I forgive you,” for they had not asked for forgiveness. What he did was to show that he held no personal grudge against them and asked God to work forgiveness into their lives.

Also, in Romans 12:17-19 we read that we are not to seek revenge. The text reminds us that we are to leave room for God to do what he deems appropriate and best in these situations. In essence, there are three mistakes we can make when people do things to us or say evil things about us.

A. First, we can seek Revenge

It was Mahatma Gandhi was said, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Indeed, where will the revenge end once it starts? Revenge is never God’s will. Sure, in the Old Testament the Law spoke of a requirement for a penalty to be paid for a crime committed against another. Remember, however, that was long before police and courts were legally established. The way of handling those issues in the Old Testament era was a kind of people’s court and it was necessary because no other reasonable court system was in place. Certainly Jesus did not expect people to do that in His day and the New Testament is replete with teaching regarding the way we are to treat those who mistreat us.

Someone once said, “Funny thing, revenge, it can make a killer out of a nun!” Yes, and it can ruin the entire life and testimony of a Christian. We must never allow revenge to become part of our lives!

B. Second, we can harbor Resentment

Resentment is a bit different than revenge, but it is a terrible mistake. To hold a resentment toward another is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Resentment only creates an internal sore in the soul and then it causes that sore to fester. The one with the resentment suffers and the person against who the resentment is held goes on in life without harm.

Are you harboring resentment toward someone today? If you are, I feel sorry for you. Your life is miserable and you are hurting yourself, those around you and the kingdom of God. Even if you are doing nothing to “get even” with the perpetrator of the wrong, you are doing a lot of damage to yourself. Your attitude is affecting you and your usefulness to God is limited.

C. Third, we can Remember it Forever

It may seem irrational, but God does not want you to seek revenge, keep resentment in your heart, or to remember where you bury the hatchet! If you are really going to obey God, you bury the hatchet – handle and all! Yes, it is very had to get rid of memories regarding a deep personal hurt, but God wants us to let it go so we can go on. We can never advance to God’s best place for us when we are holding on to something from yesterday. A resentment chains us to the past. Paul wrote, "Forgetting those things which are behind ... I press on..." And that is what we must do! In a moment, I’ll tell you how you can overcome even the rememberance of what someone has done to you.

II. A Supernatural Expectation

What we have here in the words of Jesus is a supernatural expectation upon us regarding forgiving others. God is telling us to forgive others as He forgives us. Just how does God forgive? Look at some Scriptures.

Read Jeremiah 31:34.

Now look at Isaiah 43:25.

Finally, read Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17.

Wow! God's forgiveness is amazing, isn’t it! And, He asks us to forgive in the same way. This requires a supernatural work in us. Only God can forgive like that, and only those who know Him and walk close to Him can forgive like that.

To forgive the way God forgives requires us to get closer to Him than we may be used to! We must have His heart and mind in us. Look at Philippians 2:5. We must let His mind be in us. Resignation is necessary in order to resolve the problem. Lily Tomlin once said, “To forgive is to give up all hope of a better past.” What a great statement. We can’t change the past, but we can give it up! We can let it go! We can move on with God toward all His plans for us, but we can't go where He is leading if we are holding on to something from yesterday.

In a way, when we forgive, we are untying a cord which is seeking to pull us down. A wrong done to us is like a great cord tied around our hearts. We try to move forward but keep being pulled back to something behind us. We can’t move on because we can’t cut the cord. God calls on us to look to Him and He can cut that cord and release us from the hurt and pain someone had inflicted upon us. Yes, it requires looking up to let of the past and move on.

III. An Essential Expectation

The point here is that God will not open the spout where the glory comes out unless we are willing to let go of the anger that creates such danger!!! We forgive as He forgives. Forgiving others is essential for us to have the full and complete blessing of God on our lives.

Jesus tells the story in Matthew 18 of a man who owed money to another. The loaner of the money called for payment but the man could not pay it. He begged for forgiveness and the loaner of the money forgave his debt. Then the forgiven man left and confronted a man who owed him a debt, albeit much less than the forgiven man had owed. When the poor man could not pay, the forgiven man had the poor man arrested and taken to prison. When the original loaner heard what had happened, he had the first debtor arrested and tortured until he paid all he owed. The point is that God will judge us with the same measure that we judge others.

The Duke of Wellington had a man in his army who had deserted on a previous occasion and then did it again. The Iron Duke was going to have him put to death. He stated, "I have done all I could and now I see no alternative but to sentence this man to death." A friend in the court room spoke up and said, "You haven't tried forgiveness." The Duke forgave the man at that moment. The soldier is said to have gone on to be an outstanding man. Forgiven.

Conclusion

So how can we, in a practical sense, forgive and let go of the past. Think of it like this. Something harmful and hurtful done to us creates a debt that we feel must be paid. Actually, since this act is in the past, it can never be changed. In other words, the offender can never make it right – NEVER! No one can completely undo and act once committed. However, the offended one can make it right. Imagine a drawer in which you keep the debts (the hurts cause by others) owed to you. You always go back and look at those debts and it makes you angry, sad and depressed. Try forgiving the debt. Imagine that you write, “Debt Paid in Full,” on the bill. The next time you remember it, imagine yourself opening the drawer and seeing the debt. But, you have written “Debt Paid in Full” on it. “Ah,” you say, “I don’t need to remember this again, the debt was forgiven." I know this sounds silly, but trust me, it works! That is what Jesus did for us. On all our sins he wrote, “Paid in Full!” He will never remember them against us. You may not be able to fully forget what someone has done, but you can work to never "remember" it against the person. Trust me, this does more than you can imagine over a period of time. Soon, you cease to even open the imaginary drawer where the debts are kept. After all, the debt is no longer valid in your mind and heart.

We have been forgiven. We must be forgivers. The channels of blessing depend upon it. Always remember, you must not be like the person who hurt you; you are to be like Jesus.

Do you need to let something go tonight? Do it now. Take out the memory, write Paid In Full on it and be more like Jesus. You will feel better, act better, serve better and BE better for doing so.

There might be someone here tonight who needs forgiveness for your sin. Only Jesus can fully forgive you. He died for you. He rose from the dead. He will accept you, if you will come to Him. Do that now!