It’s a fact of life that you’re going to get hurt. Many times intentionally by things people say about you or do to you. When we talk about forgiveness some of you instantly call to mind past hurts and heartaches that are still fresh because you have been hurt very deeply. You still wince at those memories.
Why You Should Forgive
In Matthew 18, Jesus told a story called the parable of the unforgiving servant. In that story, Jesus gives three illustrations, three reasons why we ought to forgive.
He says you need to learn to forgive other people when they hurt you:
1. BECAUSE GOD HAS FORGIVEN YOU
I have been forgiven so I need to learn how to forgive others.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
When you remember how much God has forgiven you, it causes you to want to be more forgiving to other people. On the other hand, if you don’t feel forgiven, you’re going to have a tough time forgiving others.
If you don’t feel forgiven, you don’t want others to feel forgiven. If you don’t feel grace, you’re not going to be very gracious to others. If you don’t feel set free from the things you’ve done wrong, you don’t want others feeling good about the wrongs they have done to you.
Have you ever asked God to forgive you of your sins? Have you ever received Christ’s forgiveness? If you have a hard time forgiving others, maybe it’s because you have never received Christ’s forgiveness. Maybe you need to do that today, right now.
If you receive Christ’s forgiveness and every moment of you’re day you’re living in God’s love and grace and remember your slate is wiped clean because of Jesus Christ, you will be more forgiving.
You will never have to forgive anybody else more than God has already forgiven you. He will always forgive you more than you forgive anybody else.
2. BECAUSE RESENTMENT DOESN’T WORK
Resentment is self-destructive and counterproductive. It always hurts you more than anybody else.
If anybody had the right to be resentful, it was a guy in the Bible named Job. Job was a famous, wealthy, godly man who had everything he ever wanted. But one day he lost it all. Enemy nations came in and killed all his livestock. All of his children were killed. He lost everything he had. He got a terrible disease. He was living in poverty with incurable pain.
Things had gotten so bad that Job’s wife told him he should just “Curse God and die.”
Then Job’s friends came along and said, “Job, it’s your fault.”
If anybody had the right to be resentful it was Job. But three times in the book of Job we’re told that resentment doesn’t work.
To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do. Job 5:2
Would you agree that sometimes hate or resentment or bitterness make us do really foolish things ? We do dumb things to try to get even with people. We do stuff that makes us look stupid.
It’s foolish to hold a grudge. Ecclesiastes 7:9
It’s not only unreasonable, but you are only hurting yourself with your anger! Resentment always hurts you more than it hurts the other person. Resentment makes you miserable. No matter how resentful you are, no matter how bitter you are toward that person who hurt you, all the resentment in the world is not going to change the past.
Resentment doesn’t change anything. It’s just stewing without doing. All the resentment in the world will never solve the problem. In fact, all the resentment in the world never hurts that person, it just hurts you.
Maybe they hurt you years ago and now every time you think about it, it still causes pain in your life. They’ve forgotten the issue, but your resentment keeps the hurt alive in you.
When you hold onto a hurt it’s like holding fire in your chest. It’s like swallowing a self-inflicting poison. It’s like having a cancer that eats you alive. Resentment does not hurt the other person. It hurts you.
3. BECAUSE I WILL NEED FORGIVENESS IN THE FUTURE.
Forgiveness is a two way street. You can’t expect everybody to forgive you if you are unwilling to forgive other people.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14
We cannot receive what we’re unwilling to give. If you are forgiving you will be forgiven.
But if you are unforgiving, don’t expect forgiveness from anybody else. But God says for your own sake you need to let it go. You’re not helping the situation by holding on to the hurt. When you hold on to a hurt you’re allowing somebody in the past to continue to hurt you.
If you can’t forgive a certain person, perhaps you don’t understand what forgiveness is. If you understood it, you would be more able to do it.
What you think forgiveness is and what forgiveness really is may be two different things.
There are a lot of faulty concepts, myths, and misconceptions about forgiveness out there.
Forgiveness is not minimizing the seriousness of the offense. When you minimize a wrong, you cheapen forgiveness. Forgiveness is not saying, “It was no big deal,” because it was a big deal. There’s a difference between forgiveness and acceptance.
Forgiveness is not the instant restoration of trust. Forgiveness is instant, but trust must be rebuilt over time. Forgiveness means you’re going to let go of the hurt but the person who hurt you has some things to do in order to rebuild the trust.
You may have been hurt so bad by a loved one that the thought of forgiving that person is almost unthinkable. However, here are four things you do in order to experience the freedom of forgiveness.
How to Experience the Freedom of Forgiveness
1. RECOGNIZE EVERYONE IS IMPERFECT
When you get hurt by somebody, you tend to lose your perspective about that person and dehumanize and demonize the offender. You forget that he or she is a human being too.
The fact is that everyone is a sinner and capable of hurting others. Every one of us have intentionally wronged other people in our lives.
There is not a single person in all the earth who is always good and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20
2. RELINQUISH MY RIGHT TO GET EVEN
Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Romans 12:19
This is the heart of forgiveness, what forgiveness is all about. You know the offender deserves to be hurt back, retaliated against, and punished, but say you aren’t going to do it.
This might seem unfair, but who said life is fair? God never said life is fair. This is not heaven. This is not a place of perfection. This is a place where people make mistakes. Life is not fair.
There is not always justice in the world. In fact, there’s a lot of injustice. But, God says one day He’s going to settle the score. One day God is going to balance the books, call us to account, and make things right. Until then, the Bible says, don’t avenge yourself. Don’t try to get even. Leave it to God to repay those who deserve it.
One day God’s going to have the last word. In the meantime, you let go of your right to get the last word because it’s making you miserable. Your resentment doesn’t work. Your resentment keeps you from being forgiven. Your resentment keeps you unhealthy. It’s unreasonable. It’s unhelpful. Release your right to get even and ask God to give you His peace.
How often do you have to do that? As often as the hurt memory comes back. Every time you start to get resentful, you have to forgive again. You do it over and over. Forgiveness is not a one shot deal. It’s a repeated act of giving up your right to get even.
Jesus taught this. Peter asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Peter thinks he’s being real generous here! “No,” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!”
In other words, an infinite number. Don’t even try to count it. Every time you remember that hurt you must forgive them again and again until you know that you’ve released it.
3. RESPOND TO EVIL WITH GOOD
How do you know when you’ve fully released someone? When you can understand their hurt and when you can pray for them. In that process of yielding your right to get even
God changes your heart so you began to pray for good rather than evil.
Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for
those who mistreat you. Luke 6: 27-28
There is no way you can do that verse on your own power. Humanly speaking, you can’t do that 1000 times a day. You don’t have enough love, forgiveness, and joy in your life to continually forgive everyone who has hurt you.
It takes God’s power.
The only way you can do that is if you get Jesus Christ in your life and He fills you with His love and His peace and His forgiveness because human love runs out.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. When you’re filled with love you’re not keeping a record of wrongs. That means if you’re keeping a record of wrongs, you’re not filled with love at that moment. Instead, you’re filled with bitterness and resentment.
4. REFOCUS ON GOD’S PLAN FOR MY LIFE
Instead of focusing on the offense, the hurt, and the person who has offended you, refocus on God’s purpose for your life. God’s purpose is greater than any problem or any pain that you are experiencing.
Job had every reason to be offended and every reason to have resentment but he gives us the three steps for refocusing your life:
Put your heart right, reach out to God then face the world again, firm and courageous. Then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remembered no more. Job 11: 13-16
Notice he says three things to do:
1. Put your heart right. Release and forgive the person who’s hurt you because you’re only making yourself miserable holding onto the hurt.
2. Reach out to God. Ask Christ into your life because you don’t have enough forgiveness on your own.
3. Face the world again. You don’t withdraw into a shell and build up walls. Instead resume living know you are not a victim and with Jesus Christ’s power you are going to start living again.
When you do those three steps, notice what it says: “Then all your troubles will fade from your memory like floods that are past and remembered no more. The memory will fade.”
Wouldn’t you like that memory, that hurt, to stop hurting you? It will, if you do what God says.
Check back on your discussion from last week about respect. Do you remember the memory verse? 1 Peter 1:18-19 TLB Have you had any opportunities to apply respect by being tactful, understanding, not judging, sharing your faith or responding politely?
Hear the Word
No one gets through this life without being hurt—that’s a guarantee. We live in a broken world, and none of us is perfect. That’s why the value of forgiveness is so important to build our lives upon. Without forgiveness, we’ll have a difficult time with conflict and unsettled issues in our relationships.
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 18 about a gracious king who forgave a servant’s debt only to see that servant go out and demand repayment by those who owed him a debt. Have someone in your group read Matthew 18:21-35 out loud.
- God has forgiven you. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have been forgiven. So, the first question this week is, have you accepted God’s forgiveness through Christ for your sins? If not, what’s holding you back? Do you still believe lies like, “I’m an exception to forgiveness because I’m too bad,” or “You don’t know what I’ve done,” or “I need to prove I’m worthy?” In what ways have you found yourself living as though you have to earn your way into God’s good graces?
- Job 18:4 says, “You are only hurting yourself with your anger.” What hurts or wrongs have you had a hard time letting go of? What effect has it had on your heart and mind?
- It’s important to know what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness is not minimizing the offense, instant restoration of trust or resuming the relationship without any changes. Your forgiveness is not based on that person’s response or even on acknowledgement of wrongdoing. When you think of what forgiveness requires, what first comes to mind?
- The four attitudes of forgiveness are: 1) Recognize we’re all imperfect. 2) Relinquish your right to get even. 3) Respond to evil with Good. 4) Refocus on God’s plan for your life. Which of the four attitudes of forgiveness seems easiest for you to do? Which one is the hardest? What thoughts or emotions come up in the process?
Tell Someone Else
Who do you need to forgive? This week, tell them you forgive them. In some situations, it may not always be advisable or even possible for you to go to people who have hurt you. They may have moved, passed away or a conversation with them would make matters worse. When you can’t forgive in person, consider the empty chair technique or writing a letter you never send. These techniques can make forgiveness feel more tangible. (See page 136 of the personal study guide for more details.)
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