If I have hurt someone should I seek forgiveness or should the person who has been hurt be the one who initiates teh process? In Matthew 5:23-25 Jesus speaks to the person who is aware that their brother has something against them and tells them to go and make it right, to settle matters quickly. In Matthew 18:15 and following Jesus talks about the person who has been sinned against and tells them that they should go to the person who has offended them.
It seems that the issue is a matter of awareness. So if you are aware that you have been sinned against or you have committed a sin against someone – make it right. Jesus places a high value on relationships.
Forgiveness starts with an attitude of being forgiving and ends in a transaction of forgiveness between two people. Most of us may find that after we have experienced a transaction of forgiveness with someone else that there is a time in the future when we find that we are experiencing continued deep hurt over what the person did a number of years ago. What to do?
First, note that forgiveness does not mean that we forget. Verses that talk about God forgetting our sins are not a references to God experiencing some kind of memory block, that somehow the all knowing one does not know. Not remembering means not using it against someone. Second, if you find yourself growing bitter confess your sin of bitterness. Bitterness is different from feelingthe pain of an action committed against you. Sometimes past wounds don’t completely heal. The New Heavens and the New Earth await us for complete healing. When you feel the ain of past hurt and begin to stew over it is when bitterness begins to sink in. We always have a choice as to how we are going to deal with the hurts and pains.
I believe that what we need to do is in the midst of these ongoing pains and hurst we continue to practice “being forgiving”. If you have gone through the transaction of forgiveness with someone and you find yourself wanting to use that sin against them the matter is a “heart issue” that needs confession and the ongoing ministry of God addressing the wounds of our life.
When hurt happens in a relationship between a husband and a wife does reconciling mean having a new “normal” relationship with a spouse because of a lack of trust or does a lack of trust mean that true reconciliation has not happened?
I have heard many times these words, “she saide she forgave me how come she doesn’t trust me, tell her she needs to trust me!” There is no doubt that trust is essential in a relationship and that the only way someone will give trust is if the one being given the trust is perceived to be trustworthy. That is why I believe that reconciliation and restoration of a relationship is more like a spectrum which as trust is restored there is a deeper level of reconciliaiton that takes place. Trust takes time and consistency over a period of time.
Recently I had a discussion with eight 30 something married men from my church about preaching. We eventually talked about what things they would like to see more of in sermons. One comment summed it all up for me, “we want sermons to be like Steve Jobs presentations”. Whereas my gold standard for preaching is men like Haddon Robinson these 30 something men had their own gold standard for communication, Steve Jobs.
So what do Haddon Robinson and Steve Jobs have in common? Should they have much in common? Should our sermons be more like Steve Jobs’ presentations?
The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs
I would like to recommend the book, “Unpacking Forgiveness: biblical answers for complex questions and deep wounds” by Chris Brauns. In this book he gives some helpful suggestions to deal with the very real issue of bitterness. I will highlight some of these suggestions here.The Apostle Paul writes some helpful words in Romans 12:17-21 that apply to the issue of bitterness and if applied to your life will help in overcoming bitterness. First, as difficult as this may be and as contrary to how you feel, resolve to not seek revenge. “Do not repay evil for evil”, Romans 12:17. Second, proactively show love, Romans 12:20. Loving those who have hurt you is counter intuitive to our nature but it is so like Jesus. Third, wait for God’s justice and trust in his sovereign control, Romans 12:19. You can take your hand off of this situation knowing that God ultimately judges sin and he is in control of your life. As you contemplate these wise and life giving words you will find that they will help you deal with bitterness.You should also confess before God what bitterness is, it is a sin. As challenging as the circumstances of our lives can be at times, bitterness is not something that is done to us but it is a response that we choose to live with.
Don’t forget to check out the walls of the Prayer Room at OBC this Sunday and “fill the walls”. Who has God brought into your life to share your faith story? See some of our staff praying over the names this week.
The vast majority of questions that we received after the sermon on forgiveness had to do with our relationship with someone who is unrepentant.There is a difference between being forgiving and the transaction of forgiveness for sins. Being forgiving is a matter of your heart. In Mark 11:25 Jesus asks us to be forgiving which is something that we should always be ready to and with grace do. God is always forgiving, he desires to forgive, and he also fulfills the transaction of forgiveness when someone repents of their sin. The same is true of our interaction with one another.If someone has truly committed a sin against you, a deep offense, then reconciliation with that person will require not only your willingness to forgive but the transaction of forgiveness that is dependent on repentance. We must always desire to be forgiving but reconciliation in your relationships will only take place if repentance takes place and you respond with a commitment of “I forgive you”. (Matthew 18:15-17 and Luke 17:3)The Scriptures teach that it takes two to forgive and reconcile.
Last Sunday, January 8, 2012, I preached a sermon on forgiveness as part of our “Everyday Generosity” series. At the end of the sermon I gave people an opportunity to submit questions. I received almost 50 questions.Some of the most emotional and thought provoking questions asked after the message on forgiveness had to do with the nature of God’s forgiveness. I am listing and answering each as part of this single blog entry. “The Bible and your message underscores the importance of reconciliation and restoration in the process of forgiveness. The Bible states that through Christ, God is going to reconcile all things to himself. Does our theology of hell (narrow is the way and few that find it) contradict this premise of reconciliation. Is God more interested in punishment than restoration?”Colossians 1:20 states the following, “and through him (Jesus Christ) to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” The process of reconciliation Colossians 1:20 refers to is the ultimate kingship and authority that Jesus has over all things. Isaiah 9:6 calls him the Prince of Peace. Jesus’ sacrifice and reign means that for those who are followers of Christ they can experience reconciliation to God as his friends. As for those who are not followers of Christ, his enemies, one day Christ’s reign of peace will be enforced on them. There will be a time in the future when rebellion against God will be defeated by Christ as the conquering king (Revelation 19:11-21 and Revelation 20:7-10). It is because of the cross and Jesus’ sacrificial and substitutionary sacrifice that this is possible. The reconciliation that the Apostle Paul is speaking of in Colossians 1:20 is a peace that comes from forced subjugation. We await the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord whether those doing it want to or not. This concept of reconciliation is different than that which Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.Therefore, I do not see how the biblical idea of hell is a contradiction of God’s love and reconciliation. God is not more interested in punishment than restoration and they are not mutually exclusive from one another any more than God expressing love and justice.“We talk about the unconditional love of God and yet it appears that God’s forgiveness is conditional. Does God’s forgiveness flow from his love or is it separate? And if so, how do you reconcile the apparent contradiction?”God loves unconditionally and God’s forgiveness is conditional. His willingness to forgive flows from the nature of his being, he is love. The transaction of forgiveness, the ability to experience the results of God’s love is dependent on repentance. In this there is no contradiction.Perhaps an example would suffice (I give it with some levity). I love my children and my friends (albeit in my humanity not always unconditionally) and because of my love for them I am always willing to offer forgiveness for things that they may do against me, like stealing my vanilla syrup for my tea. My family members and friends can always receive my forgiveness if they ask for it. I do not automatically absolve my friends and family members of the guilt associated with their actions or in-actions but I do offer it. If they choose to not receive it by asking for forgiveness then even though I may be forgiving they have not experienced forgiveness.God is always being forgiving and his offer of forgiveness flows from his being in nature love. This does not mean, however, that we are all forgiven. To receive God’s free gift of forgiveness we must respond by repenting of our sin and asking for forgiveness.“Did I understand from your sermon that our sins are only forgiven if we are repentant? I thought all of my sins were washed away when I accepted Christ as Saviour. I am sure that I have sinned against others and not been convicted of that sin. I know I have certainly hurt others without meaning to. Of course I repent of sin that I clearly know is sin. Can you please clarify if ALL sins of Christians are forgiven, even those which aren’t confessed.”Psalm 103:11-12 describes in beautiful poetic language that for those of us who have expressed faith in Jesus and his saving work on the cross our sins are forgiven. That means every single one of them for all of time. From an eternal perspective this means, once forgiven in Christ always forgiven in Christ. Nothing changes this truth. Nothing changes my legal standing before God. If I have faith in Christ I am declared to be righteous from God’s perspective in Christ (not because of who I am but because of who he is). In terms of my ongoing relationship with God forgiveness continues to play an ongoing and important role. 1 John 1:9 indicates that when we are aware of the sins that we commit we should confess them to God and God will be faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins. In 1 John 3:6, 9 the Apostle John indicates that persistent unrepentant sin is not the sign of a true follower of Jesus Christ.Therefore, once forgiven always forgiven in our standing before God but as we live our lives in relationship with God unconfessed sin hinders our relationship with God. As the Spirit of God convicts you of your sin seek out forgiveness from God. Live in light of your salvation.“Can God ALONE grant us forgiveness for the wrong doings of our fellow men? Do we need forgiveness and acknowledgement from our fellow men as well?”All sin committed is a sin against God. When we choose to act opposite to what God’s declared will is towards one another this is a sin committed against another but also against God. Forgiveness from God is always necessary for the sins that we commit. You will note that in 2 Samuel 12 when David confesses of his sin with Bathsheba, against Uriah, and the nation of Israel his first statement in 2 Samuel 12:13 is, “I have sinned against the Lord.” We must seek forgiveness from God for our actions against one another.Whenever possible we should seek forgiveness from those we have sinned against. There are many conditions related to this, things like boundaries, consequences of our actions that do not permit contact, the death of one we have sinned against, the nature of your relationship with the one who has been sinned against. Wisdom is needed in working out the practical implications of confession. But as a biblical principle we should always seek to repent of our sin and receive forgiveness from the one we have sinned against (Matthew 18:15-20). You cannot control the response of the one you have asked forgiveness from but if you can seek out forgiveness. In those situations when restitution is not possible God is gracious, he is our shepherd, our shelter, and our strength.“What deep offense against God could I have done that could compare to the horrific sins that were committed against me and that stole my childhood?”This question reminds us that when we are talking about forgiveness and reconciliation God begins to speak into our deepest wounds. The first thing we need to acknowledge and be affirmed with is that God does not trivialize our pain but he has full empathy towards our pain. Hebrews 4:15 and 16 says that, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.” When we speak to the nature of sin and the awful nature of our rebellion against God and his subsequent sacrifice for all of that we have done against God, it in no way should minimize the pain of our own experiences. Second, sin is a terrible thing. In 1 Samuel 15 the King of Israel, Saul commits a sin against God and God says that he is “grieved” that he made Saul king. Using emotions that we can relate to the author describes a deep hurt committed against God. This deep hurt is caused by disobedience. In 1 Samuel 15:22-23 the prophet Samuel calls this disobedience and arrogance like the sin of divination and idolatry. It is a straight out rejection of God. When Jesus hung on the cross he took upon himself all of the sins of humanity committed against God and in a final and climactic act he experienced the absolute rejection from God that only sin causes. He utters the words, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me”. I can barely stand it to think that my sins were part of that. It is not until we begin to grasp the weight and severity of our disobedience and rebellion towards God that we are able to understand the depth of the offense we have committed against God. Sin is a terrible thing!
Servant magazine (issue eighty-eight 2011) interviewed Tim Keller the pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City and among the many questions asked Keller he was asked about what skeptics need most from Christians. Here is how he replied,”Don’t think in terms of what used to be called friendship evangelism. Think in terms of friendship. Your evangelism should be organic and natural, not a bunch of bullet points and agenda items that you enter into a conversation hoping to get to so your’s almost like a marketer. Just naturally talk to them about how you see reality. If an issue comes up don’t hide your Christianity. I think people either try to push faith on others without being their friend or they are their friend but hide their Christianity. So if you are a friend who doesn’t hide your Christianity I think things will go along well.””A Christian friend they admire. Forty years ago most of us knew gay people, but we didn’t know we did because everybody was carefully quiet about it. As a result , you could believe stereotypes about them. Today, culture has changed. As a result, almost all younger people know somebody who’s gay and they realize they’re ordinary, and in many cases, admirable people. And therefore they cannot believe stereotypes or blanket negative statements about them. Most skeptics I talk to probably do have Christian friends but they don’t know it. Christians are like the gay people were forty years ago. They hide it. Basically, there are all sorts of wonderful Christians. But most skeptics don’t know them and what they need more than an argument is to observe an intelligent, admirable human being and see that a big part of what makes them that way is their faith. Having a Christian friend you admire makes the faith more credible.”When it comes to sharing your faith, think personal not impersonal.
OBC met Sunday morning (January 1, 2012) and made a resolution for 2012. I had been wondering, “if there was one important thing we would resolve to do together in 2012 what would that one important thing be? There are so many different and good things we could resolve to do together in 2012. We could pray more, read through the Bible together, all worthy of our attention. But a good resolution is always an intersection between the truly important and urgent. This would mean that it has to be a high value from God’s perspective (Scripture) and a pressing need in the life of our church.As we look forward to reaching our region and seriously consider what “multiplication” looks like for us as a church this year it seemed fitting that we consider the following for our 2012 resolution:”We resolve together that each of us share our faith in Christ with one other person in 2012.”To encourage this we are asking that each student and adult that is a follower of Jesus Christ and calls OBC home prayerfully consider who the person is that God has brought into their life to share their story of faith and God’s story with. Over the course of the next few weeks and months as the name of that person becomes clear, come to the prayer room and write the first name of that person on one of the walls in the prayer room. This will allow many who visit the prayer room to pray for the name of that person. When you have shared your faith in Jesus Christ with that person return to the prayer room and circle their name. This will encourage you and everyone else as we see how we are together fulfilling our resolution to share our faith in Jesus Christ with others.Check back here for regular updates and helpful information as we move together to “fill the walls” in 2012.