While preparing for my last sermon on forgiveness, I had a picture of our church being handed red balloons. One by one we began to rise into the sky. After a few moments, it became apparent that many of us were not going to go much father. As I looked down, many had a rope around their ankles and the rope was tied to rocks, weights, and baggage. This seemed to represent unforgiveness and offense that many of us carry in our hearts.
Of course, this seemed very apropos to our vision for the year; God wants us to rise! And God is still after many of our hearts. I believe He is waiting, rather, I believe God is longing to take our church to higher places in Him. Our response seems to be to start taking Him at His word - to walk by faith - and to do what He says do. In Luke 6:46, Jesus says, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord', and not do what I tell you?"
Based on where we are as a church and what scriptures calls Christians to be and do, it is time for us to start forgiving in our families (of origin), our marriages, and in our church. Jesus told His disciples that the world would know we are His disciples by the way we love (John 13:34-35). He prayed that we would be one (John 17:20-21). We can manifest this love and oneness with an eager desire to forgive like Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:30-32; Colossians 2:13-15). But if we cannot practice forgiveness in our families, marriages, and churches, how can we show out to the world?
So in effort to help us forgive and cut some ropes off our feet, here are some definitions and scriptures to help us better understand what forgiveness is and is not.
- to stop feeling anger toward someone who has done something wrong; to stop blaming someone
- to stop requiring payment of a debt owed
God's forgiveness towards us is:
- Infinite; without limit (Psalm 103:12)
- Restorative - it opens a way for us to have relationships with Him
Here is forgiveness: when you feel that someone is your enemy or when you simply feel that you or someone you care about has been wronged, forgiveness means:
- Resist thoughts of revenge: Romans 12:19, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."
- Don't seek to do them mischief: 1 Thessalonians 5:15, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil.
- Wish well to them: Luke 6:28, "Bless those who curse you."
- Grieve at their calamities: Proverbs 24:17, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles."
- Pray for them: Matthew 5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
- Seek reconciliation with them: Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."
- Be always willing to come to their relief: Exodus 23:4, "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him."
And my real life friend, Lulie Thomas, took a moment to send a few thoughts over on what forgiveness is not and what forgiveness is:
Forgiveness is NOT
- A feeling
- A natural response
- One-time decision
- Waiting for time to heal all wounds
- Letting the guilty off the hook
- Excusing people's bad, unjust behavior
- Based off of what is fair
- Being weak
- Pretending or denying the hurt, pain or offense
- Forgetting what happened
- The same as reconciliation
- Obedience to Christ
- A continuous lifestyle
- Dismissing a debt
- Dismissing your demand that other owe you something, especially when:
- The fail to meet your expectations
- They fail to keep a promise
- They fail to treat you justly
- Setting someone free from the consequence of failing short of God's standard
- Getting your heart right before the LORD
Hopefully these definitions give shape and clarity to what God is asking us to do Matthew 6:14-15. And a reminder... you cannot do this without Him (John 15:5). Jesus is the only person who has ever been able to live the Christian life (John 5:19; Romans 3:23). It requires His life in us to actually forgive (Romans 5:10; Galatians 2:20)! Lean on Him as you forgive (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Now that you have an idea of what forgiveness is, check out our blog on How to Forgive.