This is one of the most problematic of our studies, and yet one of the most hopeful. The dimensions of forgiving grace have been limited by some while still touting the “completeness” of His forgiveness Heb. 7:25-28). Forgiving grace has been abused by others (Romans 6:1-2), and misunderstood by other who know the meaning (unmerited favor) but fail in the application of this marvelous outpouring of God’s love. Forgiving grace can also be un-believed by others who feel they are beyond His loving hands. Whether LIMITED, ABUSED, MISUNDERSTOOD, OR UNBELIEVED… the result is the same, limited joy and success in the Christian life. Everyone wants to be forgiven, yet fail to realize the “give and you will get” principle tied to it (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35). Forgiving grace IS AT THE HEART OF GOD’S GREATES GIFT – JESUS!
Bible forgiveness is to (a) GRANT FREE PARDON (this is grace), and (b) STOP FEELING RESENTMENT (Part B is harder and takes more time because of the healing process. Forgiveness is THE BEGINNING OF HEALING.) BOTH ARE OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE TO THE PROCESS!!! Both are critical to this gift of grace and both involve the head and heart of the one wounded.
To offer “free pardon” to an offender, with no ifs, ands, or buts attached is pure grace (cf. Lk. 15:11-32). To “stop feeling resentment” is the crowning blessing of forgiving grace. This is grace – pure grace – God’s grace – and He offers both to all (Revelation 22:17). THERE IS A “BALM IN GILEAD” (Jer. 7:22). Healing is offered freely, which enables the forgiven, to extend this grace to the one who wounded him/her. THE FIRST GRACE EXTENDS LIFE TO THE WOUNDED AND THE SECOND GIFT REVIVES LIFE IN THE WOUNDED. BOTH ARE ESSENTIAL – IMPERATIVE – ABSOLUTE, for one without the other leaves the problem only HALF SOLVED!
True FORGIVING GRACE is a paradigm shift for many if not all Christians!
When Paul says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2)… he simply mentions GRACE, this includes, FORGIVING GRACE!!!
1. FORGIVENESS IS NOT FORGETTING!
Well IF WE CANNOT FORGET, then how can we deal with the bad thoughts and memories that keep bothering us all day and night? The key word here is “bothering”, and the answer is found in 1.) forgiveness and 2.) learning a lesson making changes 3.) focus on the present and future and not the past.
A. The human brain is not made to forget, if it could, lessons would not be learned.
B. Why try and forget something which can teach a VITAL LESSON (stepping stones)
C. We are disciples (learners) not forgetters, and some of the greatest lessons, and times of growth comes from situations where there are heartaches and stress. BESIDES, WHEN GRACE IS EXTENDED TO THE TORMENTOR, HEALING GRACE IS GIVEN TO THE TORMENTED. DON’T FORGET… LEARN, GROW AND REJOICE IN THE GROWING. Here we find a WIN-WIN situation. The forgiver is not tied to the past, and the offender is free as well.
(Note: Dealing with “Tolerating” will be considered in #3.)
2. FORGIVENESS IS NOT AN ELECTIVE OPTION
A. We have no right to play the old parlor game “Heavy heavy hangs over your head”. Forgiving is for HEALING. It takes away the idea of always bringing things up that were supposedly forgiven. (IF YOU ARE GOING TO FORGIVE, GO ALL THE WAY!)
B. Paul says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19).
C. FORGIVENESS IS THE ONLY HOPE FOR THE OFFENDED AND OFFENDER.
D. God is more interested in the OFFENDED that the OFFENDER, especially if the OFFENDED is a Christian. He wants His child to heal, grow, and be protected against bitterness. God will protect and restore the wounded before he will help the one who crushed him to the ground. Both need help, but God will BEGIN with the one who needs it most. So if you have been wounded, forgive freely, it’s your only hope.
3. FORGIVENESS DOES NOT DEPEND ON THE OTHER PERSON
A. Yes! It is necessary for one to repent and ASK for forgiveness (and receive it) before forgiveness to be complete, but even if someone is mean, doesn’t ask or want your forgiveness… (You can’t make a person “be sorry” or repent), but THE OFFENDED, THE HURT PERSON CAN FULLY PREPARE THE GIFT OF GRACE and even if it takes a lifetime… can be prepared to give the gift.
B. Consider WHY this is important.
It wards off BITTERNESS in the heart as one says in his/her heart “I FORGIVE YOU ANYWAY”. It maintains your communion with God and doesn’t block your prayers (as Bitterness does). It allows you to continue growing in grace (2 Timothy 4:16-18).
C. What about “Toleration”? There are people who offend, and don’t care, and won’t change. What now? Well, first take care of your own heart. You must be willing to give the gift. However, some people are close to us either by association at work, or family, or even church. Contact is inevitable. Suggestions:
1.) Maintain your stand in grace and be ready to forgive. (WWJD)
2.) Where trust is broken, and there is fear of repetition, be cordial.
3.) Boundaries are critical. Determine what actions can and cannot be tolerated. Bad actions don’t have to be tolerated. Bad people don’t have to be allowed in your inner circle. But you have the Holy Spirit to help you treat this person right.
4.) When boundaries are crossed, be assertive and deal with the action in such a way that you don’t have to look back and ask yourself, “Did I do wrong.” Maintaining a stand on certain things is not wrong, it’s how we do it that makes all the difference.
5.) Matthew 18:15-20 deals with a brother who sins against you…. Matthew 18:15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” How it is done, makes a lot of difference.
6.) Don’t put off dealing with problems…. They just get worse!
4. THE UNFORGIVER IS UNFORGIVEN.
A. I don’t like this one. Yet it is plain. I cannot tell you when God will reject the Christian who is an un-forgiver. Yet Jesus is plain, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). This one will eventually be lost. Matthew 18:21-35 gives a more graphic story concerning this.
5. NOTHING TAKES THE PLACE OF FORGIVENESS
A. “Let’s just forget it!” “Let’s bury the hatchet!”, “I’ll just move to another congregation!”, “Let’s just get re-baptized!”, “Let’s just pray about it!”, “Let’s just say it never happened!”.None of these things will work!!! None of these things takes the place of forgiveness… ASKED FOR AND RECEIVED FREELY.
6. FORGIVENESS IS SPIRITUAL AND TAKES PLACE IN THE HEART
A. Galatians 6:1
B. Who is called on to do the restoring? An elder? Deacon? Minister? NO! The spiritual (filled with the Spirit) brother or sister in Christ.
C. Is this easy? No! Yet it must be done. Would you allow an amateur to operate on your physical heart? Would you want a beginner to operate on your brain? Forgiveness probes deeply into the heart… only the spiritual can expect to succeed, (Ephesians 4:32).
7. THE UNFORGIVEN ARE HELPLESS
A. This is what is so bad about the unforgiving person. He/she leaves the other to just spiritually ‘bleed out and die’. Read again Ephesians 4:30-32
Jesus paid the full price of our sins as well as others. How would God see you without Jesus’ cleansing blood? We owe Him so much and yet He forgives….. This is FORGIVING GRACE!
GROW IN GRACE… NOT BITTERNESS….