Who do you hate?
Sorry, I know it’s a bit early in the morning for that sort of question. And I am sure that all of you will say to me ‘I don’t hate anyone!’
Ok, so who do you find really difficult to forgive?
Now you don’t have to tell me – particularly out loud – particularly if it is someone here – don’t look around whatever you do!
And if you think – I really cannot think of anyone that I hate or I have not forgiven or cannot forgive, then I would ask you to think a little longer and I am going to give you a few seconds of silence to bring them into your mind.
Now you have done that – I want you to forgive them in your hearts.
You may say ‘but Alex you don’t understand – if you knew what they have done – if you knew how they have behaved – any right thinking person would agree that it would be a total outrage to forgive them’
Nevertheless, I am saying to you, you must forgive them.
Well you may say ‘I cannot forgive them’ – I don’t know how
Well let’s just see what we mean by forgiveness
Forgiveness is not:
- Approval of what they did
- Excusing what they did
- Justifying what they did
- Pardoning what they did
- Denying what they did
- Blindness to what has happened
- Forgetting what has happened
- Refusing to take the wrong seriously
- Pretending that we are not hurt
- Being aware of what someone has done and still resolving to forgive
- Making a choice to keep no records of the wrong they have done you
- Refusing to punish
- Not telling others what they did (except possibly one person for therapeutic reasons or to the necessary officials if a crime has been committed – to protect others (as in the case of rape or child abuse – we may need to be witnesses even while we forgive)) we must not tell others so that we get even
- Being merciful – not giving them what they do deserve
- Being gracious – giving them what they do not deserve
- Occurs in the heart – and this is why reconciliation is not always a necessary part of forgiveness. Many people that I find difficult to forgive would find it absurd that they had done anything wrong in the first place
- Is the absence of bitterness – bitterness drives away the Holy Spirit from us and we must deal with it if we are to flourish as God wants us to flourish – but it does not follow that if you forgive you will remain close friends
- Something we may need to do every day – it’s tough
The example of Joseph we have just heard is such a good one.
Thrown in a pit by his brothers who had conspired to kill him, sold as a slave to Egypt.
Owner’s wife tries to seduce him; refuses her and is unjustly imprisoned.
Reveals dreams of Pharoah’s cupbearer who then forgets about him in gaol when the cupbearer is released.
Joseph has a lot to be bitter about.
But by the time that he is released from gaol he is a changed man – no bitterness, no grudges. He had totally forgiven his brothers – verse 19 “am I in the place of God. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”
But how do we do this? This is a huge subject and I can recommend RT Kendall’s book Total Forgiveness – this talk is a summary of RT’s book which I have been reading this week to prepare to speak to you about forgiveness – this is how you can get it on Amazon:. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Total-Forgiveness-Achieving-Greatest-Challenge/dp/034075639X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410693409&sr=1-1&keywords=total+forgiveness+rt+kendall
But we can make a start by praying for those who have hurt us relentlessly every day – not just seven times, not just for seven days, but as Jesus says in the passage we have just read – seventy times seven – really for ever until when there is an opportunity to punish or speak badly of them we no longer remember or feel bitter or need to forgive them.
We need to pray that they will never be punished for what they did to us, no one will ever know and that they will prosper.
If we do this we will be released – we will be happier – we will probably be healthier – and they will no longer have any power over us. It is a total liberation.
It is only then that we can safely say the Lord’s Prayer.
Do you know the most important word in the Lord’s Prayer?
Every day we pray that God will forgive us for our sins ‘as’ we forgive those who sin against us. If we have not forgiven those who sin against us, we are effectively praying that God does not forgive us.
As in Jesus’ parable – the king against whom you and I have sinned, but who has forgiven you and forgiven me, expects us to forgive those who have sinned against us.
Make the decision to forgive them today, before we say the Lord’s Prayer, before we come to receive Communion. Do it now. Let’s pray for those who have hurt us that they will flourish.
If we do this every day our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be totally transformed.