(This is the fourth article in a series called “The Mission Continues” as we discuss how to continue the lessons we learned during this year’s missions celebration. Click here to read the rest of the posts.)
Forgiveness is a really big deal! In the past several weeks we have heard two guest speakers at Oak Hill describe how hard forgiveness is, but also how powerful can be.
Jennifer Barrick described how she had taken steps to reach out with forgiveness to the drunk driver that hit her family’s car head-on, leaving them all with life-long scars. During our GIC, Joseph Hovsepian shared the difficulty he faced in forgiving a person who mocked his faith and who celebrated the martyrdom of Joseph’s father.
Each was motivated by Ephesians 4:32 which says, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
We may be commanded to forgive, but how can we forgive people who have hurt us so deeply? And why should we go through the trouble of forgiving people?
What Is Forgiveness?
Rick Warren makes four observations about true, Biblical forgiveness that can help us understand these questions.
1. Forgiveness is remembering how much you’ve been forgiven.
This is the starting point of true forgiveness. No matter how much you’ve been hurt, we must remember how much grace we have received from God. It helps me to remember a little phrase: “Forgiven people forgive.
Forgiveness is relinquishing your right to get even.
Romans 12:19 informs us that as Christians we do not have the option of getting even, even when the offending party is clearly wrong. Obedience demands that we not focus on our rights and thereby justify schemes of retaliation. That’s not easy is it? In the flesh, it’s virtually impossible.
“Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: ‘Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.'”
2. Forgiveness is responding to evil with good.
Wow, forgiveness seems to be getting harder. But for the one who is pursuing God, who is allowing the Holy Spirit to command one’s thinking and behavior, it’s possible. Luke 6:27-28 says,
“Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
3. Forgiveness is repeating the process as long as necessary.
In the Bible, Peter thought he was going the extra mile when he asked Jesus if forgiving some one seven times was sufficient. In reply, Jesus recommended seventy time seven (Matthew 18:21-22). That is really just a reminder of the incalculable extent of forgiveness we have received from God.
In this Sunday’s worship service, we will look at the Bible to see how the church is connected as the Body of Christ through our words. Interestingly, the passage ends with Ephesians 4:32 (see above). How might the words we say and forgiveness we offer be connected? We’ll see . . .