Sunday was a powerful, but hard day at Revolution. It was powerful because of the content: ending the bitterness in your heart and forgiving those who have hurt you the most. It was hard because that idea is incredibly difficult. Very few people actually experience freedom from those who have hurt them the most.
The reality for everyone, at some level they have been hurt by someone, they are withholding forgiveness from someone. Because of that, this topic relevant to everyone.
In Ephesians 4:25 – 32, Paul walks through the process many people walk through when they are hurt and then he lays out how to move forward from that. If you missed it, you can listen here.
They begin by lying about what happened (25). Either to themselves, to the person who hurt them or the people around them. Either not being honest about it, not telling anyone about it, minimizing the damage that’s been done or pretending it wasn’t a big deal.
Then, they are angry (26 – 27). Now, Paul tells us that anger is not a sin, in and of itself. Anger can lead us to sin if we aren’t careful. It is appropriate and biblical to be angry at sin and injustice, but we can’t allow that anger to lead us to sin. When it does, we give Satan a foothold in our lives. Paul tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger. This is a picture to help us see that we need to deal with our hurt and anger quickly. When it festers, it grows into sin.
If we let our anger grow into sin, it impacts our daily lives. It paralyzes us (28). This keeps people from working, living a normal life. It prevents them from moving forward.
All of this leads to us lashing out at the person who has hurt us, speaking ill of them (29 – 30). This should not be what defines a follower of Jesus. This doesn’t mean we shower the person with compliments who hurt us, but it does mean that we don’t speak ill of them. It might mean you say nothing about them.
Paul ends with a beautiful, but difficult line: Forgive those who hurt you as God in Christ forgave you (32). It’s beautiful because it reminds me of God’s grace to me, but it is difficult because it means I am responsible and held accountable to extending that same grace to those who have sinned against me.
It is important to understand though, what forgiveness is and isn’t.
What forgiveness is…
- Forgiveness is cancelling the debt owed to you. When you forgive someone, you relinquish your right to make them repay that debt. God’s forgiveness of us cancels the debt of our sin, in the same way; our forgiveness to someone cancels their debt. We can stop making them pay for what they did.
- Forgiveness is removing the control your offender has over you. You not only free them from their debt to you but also emotionally free yourself from them. When we don’t forgive someone, we allow that person to take up residence in our heart, moving God out.
- Forgiveness is giving a gift to your offender and yourself. Holding grudges, bitterness hurts your current relationships, work, marriage, gives you higher blood pressure, stress and anxiety. Forgiveness releases that power.
- Forgiveness forsakes seeking revenge. God’s forgiveness also gives up revenge. He gives it freely, allowing those who have sinned against him, us, to come to him.
- Forgiveness gives God ultimate justice. We withhold forgiveness out of our sense of fairness, but the Bible promises that God will deal with everyone’s sin justly. Forgiving someone who has hurt you, allows God to be God. We can stop trying to bring vengeance against a person and allow God to be God in that relationship or situation. Not in a vengeful, “Wait til Jesus gets you.”
- Forgiveness is an ongoing process. Once you forgive someone, you will continually remind yourself of this.
- Forgiveness wants good for our offender. We change from wanting them to suffer and pay to wanting them to repent and change by God’s grace.
What forgiveness is not…
- Denying that sin occurred or diminishing its evil and impact. When Jesus died, he called it sin, he named it. God said you were a sinner against him. He didn’t deny that, he died for that. It was sin done to you, against you. You were abused, molested, you were abandoned, you were unloved. It happened, don’t deny that.
- Forgiveness is not enabling sin. God’s forgiveness for us gives us power over sin, it does not enable it. Forgiveness does not make you a doormat to that person and their sin, because you choose whether or not you forgive them.
- Forgiveness is not covering up sin committed against us. If a crime is committed, you need to tell someone.
- Forgiveness is not forgetting. Scars, memories will still remain. People will say “we should forgive and forget.” That’s not biblical or helpful. God does not forget your sin. Scripture says that God remembers our sin no more. He doesn’t forget them, he’s all knowing.
- Forgiveness is not trust. Trust can take years to rebuild and may never be rebuilt, but that doesn’t mean forgiveness has not happened.
- Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation takes 2 people, 2 people repenting. You can forgive someone who has hurt you, giving them God’s grace, allowing God to change your heart and yet, have no relationship with them.
If this message resonated with you and you are looking for some more resources on forgiveness or identity. Here are some good ones to check out:
- “Unpacking Forgiveness” by Chris Brauns
- “Total Forgiveness” by RT Kendall
- “How to Forgive Others Totally” by RT Kendall
- “Who do you Think You Are” by Mark Driscoll
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