Is It Possible For You to Forgive?
Many of us don’t want to forgive others because it is a sign of weakness. In today’s sermon, we take a look at the weakness that is actually a strength and very helpful in releasing anger and, most importantly, hatred.
In James 1:20, James writes that the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. In last Sunday’s sermon – Why Do We Hate Each Other? – we took a look at pride, anger, and hate and how they can destroy us. It is pride that fuels the anger, and anger that fuels the hate, and hate fuels many of the destructive acts we see play out in our world today. So we said, we must let go of our pride if we want to kill our hatred before it kills us. I feel that is certainly the truth, but at the same time, there is something else that we must also do after we let go of our pride. We must learn how to forgive.
From Luke 17:3-4, I want to take a look at letting go of hate through forgiveness. Is it possible for you to forgive?
The importance of forgiveness
Some may ask, “what’s the big deal with forgiving others? Why is it so important to forgive?” Honestly, we are too prideful and stubborn when it comes to forgiving somebody or even seeking forgiveness. Truthfully, many of us see forgiveness as a weakness. When we view forgiveness through those lenses, then we will never view forgiveness as a thing of importance.
However, we are genuine believers, and scripture shows us that forgiveness is of the utmost importance. It’s very hard to talk about the subject of forgiveness and not mention Matthew 18:21-35. In this passage of scripture, Jesus tells the disciples the parable of the unforgiving servant.
Divine forgiveness given
The parable starts off with a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants (Matt. 18:23). One servant who owed the king ten thousand talents was brought to the king (Matt. 18:24). Ten thousand talents is said to equal millions of dollars in our currency – so this man was in great debt. The servant pleaded with his king to have patience and that he would pay it all back (Matt. 18:26). Without question or hesitation, the king moved with compassion and forgave this man his debt (Matt 18:27). Just like that, this man’s debt of what would equate to millions of dollars was forgiven!
Such compassion and forgiveness is something that this servant should have recognized and shared with others. However, we see that the servant did not share such compassion with somebody who was in debt to him (Matt 18:28). His fellow man asked him patience as he would work to pay him back all he owed and guess what the servant did? He would not forgive the man! He threw him in prison until he could pay back his debt (Matt 18:29-30). When word of his actions got back to the king, the king was absolutely disgusted with the servant and treated him in the manner in which he treated his fellow man (Matt. 18:31-34).
Let’s recognize that the certain king represents God and the servant represents mankind. We have been given a life to live – a life charred and stained by sin. We are in debt to the Lord, a debt that neither you nor I can pay yet God has released us from that debt through His only begotten Son (John 3:16). So, in return, how do you believe we should act? Should we act like the unforgiving servant or should we act like the king?
On the human side
We recognize the importance of forgiveness on the divine level, but there’s also some importance that we can glean on the human side as well. You see, there is a toxicity that comes from allowing anger and hate to dwell in our soul. Of course, when we allow the anger to boil over on the inside, we will eventually pop like a well-shaken bottle of soda. Hate will come pouring out of us!
Well, the bigger person learns that allowing hate to overrule and control them is an absolute waste of energy. We cannot live the way that God wants us to live if we are consumed by hatred. Therefore, it’s absolutely important for us to release that anger that ends up fueling our hatred. We can let go of it all through being able to forgive. We must make sure that we are forgiving genuinely and in a proper manner.
In Matthew’s gospel, Peter asks Jesus (Matt. 18:21), “how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive Him? Up to seven times?” This question is a reference to what Jesus says in our key verses for today’s sermon.
3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”Luke 17:3-4 NKJV
I believe Peter understood very well what Jesus had said in Luke’s gospel. What Peter asks is a question that many of us have often asked about forgiveness – how often should I forgive somebody for doing the same thing to me over and over again? We ask this question because, again, we see forgiveness as weakness. In all honesty, we don’t want somebody taking advantage of us or doing wrongly by us repeatedly.
Yet, Jesus said in His answer to Peter (Matt. 18:22), “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” I believe most of us are familiar with this teaching of Jesus and it’s one that pains us because it pains us to forgive others. That being said, I want to take a look at what Jesus says here in Luke’s gospel.
Rebuke your brother first
Jesus starts by saying “take heed to yourselves” which could mean “to be careful or be on guard” – in a way, this is also a lesson on self-care. Next, Jesus says, “IF your brother sins against you” – meaning somebody has committed a trespass against you. Jesus says to us, “rebuke him” – which means to correct.
When somebody does us wrong (trespass/sin against us), we should not be afraid to tell them. Often times, we refrain from giving rebuke because we are afraid of what may follow the rebuke. It’s hard for somebody to apologize to you if they don’t know that they have done wrong by you. Truthfully, there are times when people know they have done you wrong, but at the very same time, there are times when they do not realize they have done you wrong. We must not be afraid of giving a sharp rebuke.
Jesus then says to us, “if he repents (following your rebuke),” then you should forgive him. You see, there are times when people know they have done you wrong and they are big enough to admit that they have done so. It takes a lot for people to admit when they are wrong, so the hope is that they are being genuine and sincere in there penitence. This type of penitence is one in which we most definitely should forgive because they have sought our forgiveness as we sought the Lord’s forgiveness.
I believe that all of us can admit to having done wrong because all of us are flawed creatures. It would be a shame for us to not forgive those who seek our forgiveness. So, Jesus says that if this person were to trespass against you seven times in a day, and they repent of what they have done to you, then you should forgive them.
What about those who are impenitent?
While there are some who truly are penitent in their heart, there are others who are impenitent – meaning they are unapologetic and unrepentant. They have trespassed against us, we have given them rebuke, but they choose not to repent – what should we do? We know the answer to this question but we will still ask it anyway.
The Lord wants us to forgive others. No matter how much it pains us, this is what the Lord has asked of us. The one thing I have learned in this life is that the impenitent ones are the ones may require time. I feel like in time we can even learn to overlook the impenitent ones or to simply grow beyond their actions. The key is for us no to get bogged down by hate with them. When we can finally genuinely forgive them, then, I feel, we have gotten to a point to where we have grown over them.
This is the key to me: we’ve got to grow past our hate. I had to actually learn this lesson from both my dad and my brother. My dad, for most of my life, was always somebody that seemed to be genuinely cheerful. My brother, for many years, has always been very relaxed. It has taken me time to get to the state of calmness that I like to preserve nowadays. I can’t speak for my brother, but for myself, I have learned to simply let go of hate. I cannot and will not let hate consume me as it has done others. Meet me on this level, I know that you are capable. Remember, you are the one that has the authority and the power to open and shut the door on hatred.