How to forgive
Sermon by: Pastor Harrison Chokka
Summarized by: Aajah Sauter
This week’s message is rooted in Matthew 18:21-22. It says:
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
One of the toughest truths we come to know in our adult life is that we must forgive. It is vital to our spiritual well-being to forgive those who wounded us in our past or present. If it is so essential, then why is it so difficult to do? Connecting back to Pastor Harrison's last message, “Daddy Issues,” we learn that in order to heal from the emotional wounds our fathers may have left, we must forgive. Forgiveness is vital to our overall healing.
In this week’s message, we dive into our fear of forgiveness and what our lives look like when we refuse to forgive. Then, we take a look at what our life could look like should we choose to forgive those who have hurt us.
Sometimes, we believe lies that tell us forgiving the person who hurt us lets them off the hook. In other words, we fear that forgiving them sends a message that what they did to us was okay. This is not the truth. Forgiveness is for you and me, not for the one who inflicted pain.
In Hebrews 12, it reads:
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Using this passage, Pastor Harrison points out that in order to be holy, one must pursue peace, and in order to pursue peace, one must forgive. That’s pretty hefty, I know. As Christians, our reasoning for pursuing holiness is so we can grow in a closer relationship with God. However, we cease to be holy if we are in constant conflict with our family, coworkers, fellow church members, friends, and that guy who cut you off in the traffic circle.
Make every effort to make peace with everyone. To accomplish this, we must remember that forgiveness is not optional. Forgiveness is rooted in remembering where our grace comes from. We are to give grace because grace has been given to us. When our sin is great, God’s grace is greater. Our job as Christians is to keep up with the grace that God has given us by sending His only son to die for our sins.
It's still hard to do, keeping up with the grace of God. God’s mercy for us is more than sufficient, overflowing, and never-ending. In such a self-righteous world, it is difficult to live in remembrance of what God has done for us and to bestow that same patience and grace to others. To be holy means that we – as His sons and daughters – are called to live differently. We must run away from the self-righteous narrative that we should cut off everyone who has ever done us wrong. The truth is that we all bear fruit. Whether that fruit tastes bitter or sweet is entirely up to us.
We often believe that forgiveness is optional. That if we still feel hurt, we must not forgive. But in order to begin healing, forgiving those who hurt you is crucial. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness. It causes us to dwell in the past and stay in a state of restlessness which is the opposite of seeking peace.
A bitter root produces bitter fruit. Be cautious of where you are rooted. Are you rooted in what has been done to you, or are you rooted in what was done for you by Jesus?
Pastor Harrison calls us to self-reflection and points out 3 symptoms of bitterness.
The 3 signs of a bitter heart:
1. A bitter heart only looks inward.
This is the inability to see things from a different perspective than your own, resulting in a lack of empathy and compassion for others. The fruit? The utter lack of deep and meaningful friendships. You are surrounded by people who merely “tolerate'' your company because your bitterness is far too great. Your bitterness makes your perspective small and your opinion huge.
2. A bitter heart is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We view the world as we are. If we are bitter, we will only view the world through a cynical lens.
3. A bitter heart is a prison sentence that we choose.
We entrap ourselves in resentment by holding onto the lie that forgiving those who hurt us is “letting them off the hook” for what they did.
With and through Jesus, there is always a brighter and hope-filled alternative. Forgiveness leads to freedom.
The 3 steps that lead to forgiveness:
1. Forgiveness is constant and continual
Forgiving someone once isn’t enough. I know that sounds painful and unfair, but it is not about what is fair. The act of forgiving is meant to bring you peace and healing. It is not about the other party involved. A surefire way to never truly forgive someone is to only forgive them once. God's grace for us is continual, so why should our forgiveness stop?
2. Forgiveness is making the decision to cancel the debt.
As part of our human nature, we often base our forgiveness on being paid back what we believe was taken from us. That is not forgiveness; that is reconciliation. Reconciliation involves both parties, but sometimes the other party isn’t present to right their wrongs. The tough pill we must swallow is that an emotional wound cannot be paid back. Freedom is found in canceling the debt as Jesus did for us.
This part should wake us up.
35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
3. Lastly, Forgiveness looks like framing my life not by what was done to me but by what Jesus did for me.
We forgive because we were and still are forgiven. We show the world what Jesus has done in us through our divine ability to forgive others. But we need continual help from the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and power to forgive.
Forgiveness is hard, but the disease of bitterness that comes from unforgiveness is far worse. Choose your hard.