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Forgiveness

Paying It Forward (Part 1)

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(4/30) Forgiveness, Healing for the Past, Peace for the Present, Hope for the Future

The Precept

Forgiveness is an awesome gift of grace from God. Just think about what God did so we could be forgiven and received into Godís family. He died a horrible death to pay our sin penalty and says, just repent, and believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Lord of all, and God releases us from all debt and will never bring it up and charge us with it again. And He does that for anyone who sincerely repents and receives Jesus because Jesus paid it all for us. And on top of that, if and when we mess up, and we all do, He graciously keeps forgiving us as a parent would their child. But there is a catch to all this; God wants us to take the grace that we have received from Him and pay it forward.

Did any of you see the movie called, Pay It Forward with Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey? Itís about an idea that a small boy came up with as a project in a Social Studies class, for changing the world. He would help change someoneís life and that person would not have to pay him back, they would be asked to pay it forward by helping to change someone elseís life. Well, that was Godís idea. Grace and forgiveness were given to us to change our lives, so we could pay it forward. Letís look at:

I. The Precept

(Ephesians 4:29-32) "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."

II. The Pain

Offenses will happen (vv.29-31). These verses all affirm that there will be pain, injury, loss, and personal offenses. Remember that our Lord said, "In this world, you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). He told us that persecution and offenses would come in Luke 17:1 and Matt. 18:7. It is entirely probable that someone has broken commandments 5-10 against you. From hurtful words, to unimaginable grief, people have or will hurt you and the pain that results can lead to despair, destruction, hatred, anger, bitterness, and revenge; everything that Eph. 4:31 says we need to put away from us. Sometimes this pain comes from people that we know and sometimes it comes from strangers; sometimes it comes from acquaintances that we work or share our social circles with and sometimes it comes from people that we love. Sometimes the resulting insult or injury rolls off like water off a duckís back and sometimes it sticks in our belly like a knife and the emotional, spiritual, mental, and perhaps physical pain is unbearable and we donít know how we are going to survive. What are we supposed to do with that pain? While I am not a psychologist, I believe that we have just two choices.

  • We can do as we are instructed not to do (v.31) and let our lives be controlled by bitterness- that is a resentful spirit, wrath or the passionate expression of hot anger, anger Ė that is our indignation mixed with scorn, clamor- verbal outbursts of our anger, Evil speaking- this is deliberately insulting the offender verbally when we have opportunity, and malice which here refers to a deliberate desire to get even. We want the person who hurt us to hurt as bad as or worse than we do. The problem with this choice is that we become a prisoner to our pain and allow the person who hurt us to maintain power over us. I will explain that more next week.
  • Our alternative choice is to forgive as God in Christ forgave us. What I want to do today and next week is to show and tell you how to do that. I am making this into two lessons instead of one because there are so many questions and misconceptions about what this means and we really need to understand this precept of God.

The Pattern

(v.32) "As God in Christ forgave you." For those of you that have repented and placed your faith in Him, God has completely released you from all your debt; He has promised to never bring them up to use them against you again. He has received you into His family and declared that there is a state of peace between you and Him. He is deliberately kind and graceful towards you and He has promised that nothing you can do will ever cause Him to stop loving you, nothing, no matter what!

Note, this is not as people have treated you, but in accordance with how God forgave you. Remember what Jesus said from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they donít know what they are doing," (Luke 23:32). The text suggests that He said it repeatedly.

In the 1800ís one of Spainís Prime Ministers was a man named Ramon Narvaez. When Mr. Narvaez was on his death bed, a priest was summoned to administer last rites. He said to the former Prime Minister, "Does his Excellency forgive all his enemies?" Mr. Narvaez famously responded, "I donít have to forgive my enemies. I have had them all shot." Thatís what we would like to do, shoot our enemies, but our Lord wants them to experience His grace just like we have. So how do we do that?

The Process

  • Acknowledge to God, and if necessary the offender, the pain, hurt, loss, etc. There are times in which the person has since died, or you will never see them again, or it really isnít worth the confrontation. Like a person making a mistake in traffic or being rude to you because they had a bad day. Verbalize your pain to God. Tell Him exactly what you feel and why. Sometimes, and we will look at them next week, you need to verbally confront the offender and with grace tell them how the actions or words, or lack of action has hurt you or your family. Be careful in your choice of words. Generally avoid conclusive statements like, "You intentionally, deliberately, hurt me." While that may be true, it is better to tell them how their words or actions resulted in the pain, hurt or loss you have experienced. Be honest to God and with the offender.
  • Acknowledge to God and if necessary the person what your options are. You could take legal action; you could seek revenge; you could withdraw your membership; you could hate and be bitter. Or, you could intentionally release them and never bring the offense up again to them or to others. It could end here, now.
  • Remember Godís forgiveness of you. Think of those thousands, or millions of thoughts, words, deeds, or things you havenít done that were offensive to Godís Holy character.
  • Perhaps, Remember when you messed up and someone forgave you. Did you deserve it? How did it feel?
  • Verbally, from your soul, release that person from what you feel they owe and promise God and the person to never bring it up against them again.
  • Demonstrate Love towards them. (Matt. 5:44-45; Luke 6:32-37; Romans 12:17-21) Put their ear back on, wash their feet, pray for them, speak well of them. (Two Tenors) In Texas, an atheist was suing a church for a nativity scene it had set up outside. During the process the atheist developed a serious eye disease. The church members decided to pay the manís medical bills. The man dropped the law suit and I heard that he had placed his faith in Jesus. That is pretty much the process, but there are lots of questions that this raises.

The Ponderings Ė What Forgiveness Does and Does Not Mean!

  • It Does Not Mean that the Offense Doesnít Matter. It does matter, you were hurt, you still hurt, perhaps your life was altered, a loss has occurred. But listen carefully, are you listening, say, "Amen," What it does mean is that God allowed the pain, because He has a purpose. Please trust me and on Motherís Day, when we deal with Forgiving God, we will talk about that plan. But it does matter. You canít get back what you have lost.
  • It Doesnít Mean that You Will Cease to Hurt. What it does mean is that You make a conscious choice to accept the pain and loss as part of Godís plan. Jesus will forever bear the marks of the nails and spear and perhaps the stripes. The Pain may lessen over time as did Esauís anger. It does mean that I trade my anger and hatred for peace.
  • It doesnít mean that complete reconciliation or trust will occur. The marriage may not be restored, the employee may have to be let go. Trust takes time to be earned and time to be restored. And sometimes the forgiven doesnít want reconciliation.
  • It doesnít mean that the person is off the hook with God because you forgave them (Rom. 12:18-21). It means that you have handed over the right to God to exact the justice He desires His way and in His time. It means I will let God be God. He may have a plan for my offenderís life like He did for Saul, Peter, Moses, Charles Watson, Susan Adkins, David Berkowitz, Chuck Colson, and many more.
  • It doesnít mean that the person must want forgiveness and repent, in every case. Forgiveness can not be experienced and reconciliation canít be achieved unless there is repentance and acceptance, but that is the action of another. Forgiveness is your choice and the key to your peace. Jesus provided for your forgiveness and everyone elseís in the world, but you didnít get it until you repented and received it. But it was always there from Him, and those who donít receive it will lose out forever when it was always there.
  • It doesnít mean that you will forget. Forgiveness is a choice and a spiritual matter. Remembering is a mental matter. The mind is a computer and unfortunately the scars and the losses, the places and the faces will be constant reminders of the pain and loss. It does mean that when ever the memories surface, I remember my pledge to God and that person to release them from the debt. Even God doesnít forget. Heb. 10:17 from Jeremiah 31 doesnít say that God forgives and forgets as a Commentary I have says. God doesnít forget anything. The text says, "He will remember our sins no more." The word Ďremember,í means to bring up to act on it. (Cp. 1 Samuel 1:19 when the Lord Remembered Hannah. Hannah had not slipped His mind, rather, it was now time for Him to act on her behalf). The Bible is Godís eternal word. Therefore God never forgets the sins of Adam, Abraham. Issac, Jacob, David, Peter, or you and I. But He will never bring them up against us again, because Jesus paid it all.

Next week we will take an in-depth look at Matthew 18 and consider:

  • When Confrontation is necessary
  • The Consequences of withholding forgiveness
  • The Question of Justice in Society, Church
  • And more to help you Heal from the Pain of the Past, and have Peace in the Present and Hope for the future.

VI. The Prayer

So, is there un-forgiven pain in your present? What will you do with it? Perhaps we need a moment of quiet to begin the process that will lead to peace. Letís bow and be still.

  • Tell God the pain and loss that you feel and how it has affected your life.
  • Tell God the options that you have and ask Him to help you to choose the right one. Does He know? Sure, but this is for you to give you the ability to throw it all up, get it all out and let Him help to clean it up.
  • Tell Him thanks for how readily and freely he has forgiven you.
  • Recall that time when someone graciously forgave you.
  • Tell God that you will release that person from their debt and will not bring up their offense again to use it against them again
  • Tell God that while you donít understand why, you trust His plan and His justice in His time
  • Now pray that God will draw that person close to His heart and change his or her heart in a way that will honor God.
  • Maybe you need to begin with asking God to forgive you and receive or restore you back into His family.

A Prayer, Father, you know that ________ hurt me and I feel I deserve justice or an apology. I know I could seek revenge or harbor this anger, or I could choose to forgive. I remember how graciously you have forgiven me for all the junk I have done. I also know what it feels like to have others forgive me when I did wrong. Therefore, I am releasing______, from their debt and I will never bring it up against him or her again. I pray now that you will draw him/her close to your heart so he/she will want to love, honor and obey you, give me the strength and ability to live each day by faith.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman