Peace On Earth – Letting Go of Unforgiveness

Introduction:

What is forgiveness? A definition for forgiveness could be — giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. It is impossible to live for any length of time without getting hurt, offended, misunderstood, lied to, and rejected. Learning how to respond is one of the basics of the Christian life. The word “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. It is important to remember that forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. Instead, it is an act of love, mercy, and grace.

Bottom Line: What’s impossible for you, is possible with God.

Something To Talk About:

Forgiving others may seem to be a choice, and in one sense it is a choice, but God has been very clear about forgiveness. He has given us specific direction in numerous Scriptures, all of which tell us we need to forgive. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25). So the question is why should I forgive and how do I forgive?

  1. Because unforgiveness hurts me: Who are you helping most when you forgive the person who hurt you? Actually, you’re helping yourself more than the other person. I always looked at forgiving people who hurt me as being really hard. I thought it seemed so unfair for them to receive forgiveness when I had gotten hurt. I got pain, and they got freedom without having to pay for the pain they caused. Now I realize that I’m helping myself when I choose to forgive. It helps me because it releases God to do His work in me. I’m happier and at peace when I’m not filled with the cancer of unforgiveness.
  2. Because I’ll need forgiveness again. Jesus’ forgiveness shows that He loves you as you are. Jesus’ healing shows He loves you too much to leave you as you are. He wants to make you whole. The reality is we need God’s forgiveness because we are going to make mistakes.  We may even be repeating mistakes we made last week. God will forgive us.  Since we too need forgiving, why are we not willing to forgive others? We want mercy from God but are not willing to show others the same mercy. 
  3. Pray for those who hurt you: Luke 6:38 says it clearly: “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” It is not easy. I get that.  It will create tension. It may be one of the hardest things you will ever do. But it is an act of obedience. It may not change the person but it will change you for the better. “Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it” (1 Peter 3:9 NLT). 
  4. Forgive as you’ve been forgiven: No matter what your circumstances or their severity, you will never have to forgive anyone else more than Jesus Christ has already forgiven you. God has been gracious with you. Now be gracious with others. Whenever we are sinned against we must choose to remember the extent to which God has released us from our sins through the blood of His Son.   

Questions:

  1. What would you say are the conditions for forgiving someone? What are some reasons to believe we should forgive others even when they aren’t sorry or don’t understand the severity of their offense?
  2. What do you think Jesus means when he says that we should love our enemies? Can we love our enemies without forgiving them? Why or why not?
  3. What in your mind is the difference between forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration? Can you think of a situation where you might forgive without being reconciled or restored with a person?
  4. Have you ever found it difficult to forgive someone of an offense? What made it so difficult? Were you ever able to resolve the issue or is it still open? If yes, how did you resolve it?
  5. What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with forgiving someone who hurt them?
  6. Look into our own hearts so we can identify someone that we need to forgive.  Ask God to help you forgive them this week.   

Take One Thing Home with You

There is wonderful little book nestled between Titus and Hebrews called Philemon. The key personalities of Philemon are the Apostle Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus. It was written by Paul to Philemon as a plea to request forgiveness for his runaway servant Onesimus, who was a new believer in Jesus Christ. The book of Philemon consists of only one chapter.  Paul is forcing us to ask a very personal question. What sort of people do we want to be? Are we going to be chained to the past? Are we going to be controlled by bitterness? Are we going to hinder our relationship with God because we can’t forgive? Is this the type of people we want to be? Or do we want to be people who forgive as God forgives. Eagerly. Totally. Endlessly. When we explore the book of Philemon we see the character, the action and the motivation of those who forgive.

Paul closes the letter with some gracious words that acts as motivation for us to forgive as well. Paul said if this man owes any debt at all charge it to me. And because of this Onesimus could stand before Philemon without fear of retribution. What then motivates a person to forgive? Number one, the recognition that I owe a debt I can’t pay.

Jesus did the same thing when he went to the cross for our sins. We were unworthy and deserving of punishment for our sin but His shed blood covered our sins and paid our debt for us. So we can stand before our Father God without sin and without fear.