Sunday, January 31, 2010

#9) Forgiveness

The Bible has a lot to say on the matter of forgiveness. It is an area that we all struggle in. Self defense is natural. If someone wrongs us, we tend to get upset. That can lead to feelings of anything from anger to sadness. It is okay to feel upset. However, the way we react is very important.

Ask congregation if they tend to hold onto feelings of “being wronged” or if they forgive without any problems.

God has many attributes in Scripture. He is eternal, immortal, unchangeable, & incomparable. God is love, vengeance, & mercy just to name a few.

Psalm 94:1
O LORD, God of vengeance,
God of vengeance, shine forth!

Psalm 103:8
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

Psalm 145:8
The LORD is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.

It almost seems like a contradiction to say that God is both a God of vengeance as well as a God of mercy. How can God be both and how does it relate to believers needing for forgive?

First, let’s look at Romans 6:23:

Romans 6:23a
For the wages of sin is death…

Deuteronomy 32:34-35
'Is it not laid up in store with Me,
Sealed up in My treasuries?
'Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.

If we look at the overall picture being portrayed in Psalm 94, we can almost hear the desperation in the text. Unrighteousness was running rampant and the author was petitioning God to put an end to it. Notice he was not taking vengeance into his own hands. It was all being left to God. God is a God of vengeance and when the time is right, all who refuse to turn to Him will be destroyed. We reap what we sow and the wages of sin is death. On the flip side, God is also described as compassionate, gracious, and merciful. It says He is slow to anger. God is ready to forgive those who are His. Those who live for Him are forgiven completely.

Jeremiah 31:34
"They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

Acts 10:43
"Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."

Ephesians 1:7
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The promise of God is clear. If one believes the Truth of the Gospel, that person will be washed clean. God will cleanse him from all unrighteousness and forgive ALL his trespasses. Jeremiah 31:34 says God will remember them no more. God is omniscient so He will obviously not forget the sins. The point being made is that He will never again bring them up. They have been forgiven once and for all. When He forgives, it is not only on a surface level. It is thorough and complete.

Ask congregation how many times we have forgiven somebody only to bring it back up in a later argument.

We are not called to hold on to feelings of revenge or feelings of being wronged. We are called to forgive. We are called to love. It is impossible to truly practice love if we are harboring feelings of anger or revenge. Love can only be perfected once forgiveness is perfected.

Proverbs 25:21-22
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
For you will heap burning coals on his head,
And the LORD will reward you.

Romans 12:17-21
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 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. "BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Ask congregation if they have ever heard the term “kill him with kindness”

The last passage in Romans is quoting Psalm 25:21-22. If one wrongs us, do not let our pride build up feelings of anger or revenge. Continue to love those who wrong us. Proverbs tells us this will be as if we are dumping burning coals on their heads. Psalm 140:10 refers to coals being heaped upon the evil ones are a sense of judgment & destruction. This is why Romans 12:21 says to overcome evil with good.

Matthew 5:38-42
"You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

This passage in Matthew is quoting Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, & Deuteronomy 19:21. This is known as the Law of Retaliation. It ensured proper and just punishments. If one wronged another, the punishment would fit the crime and not go beyond. It ensured one would not go out on their own and retaliate. The same goes for today. We are not to retaliate or commit personal acts of revenge. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for suing one another for selfish gain.

1 Corinthians 3:7
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

Everything that we have, everything we are, and everything is do is because of God. Do not boast in yourself. Do not boast in your actions. Do not take pride in what you have. Jesus really drives this home by relating the Law of Retaliation to how we practice love.

Matthew 5:38-42
"You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

We have zero right to anything. Who are we to feel wronged if one takes out shirt? Would we even have that shirt unless God blessed us with it? Rather, give him your coat as well. The entire point of this passage is forgiveness and practicing love. Do not go beyond what has been done by practicing self retaliation. Realize that all we have is because of God. Realize that by returning evil with kindness, we are heaping burning coals upon their heads, leaving vengeance up to the Lord.

Listen to the following passage and see how closely it relates to Navy life:

1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.

This passage should jump out at everybody in here. Being in a close knit environment like a ship, there are many people we can’t stand working with or working for. We may want to do a sloppy job for someone we dislike. We may want to talk about them behind their back. We may want to look for ways to get back at them. Scripture tells us to appreciate them. It tells us to speak highly of them. It not only commands us to do this but it also commands us to encourage those brothers and sisters who are having difficulties in doing so. Do not repay evil for evil. If our leaders are truly wronging you, forgive them completely, return kindness for evil, be at peace, and practice love.

How can we encourage someone who is having difficulty? We can show them the encouragement of Scripture.

Genesis 50:20
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

1 Corinthians 10:13b
God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

God is with you. As a follower of God, we will be hated. This is a promise of Scripture. However, another promise is that each time we are wronged, God has provided a way out. Even more, when one pays you evil, if you truly forgive as we are commanded and show love to that person, God will repay you and bring about many good things be it here or in Heaven.

Ask congregation for other reasons (other than the fact that we are commanded to) to forgive.

Colossians 3:12-14
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

If Almighty God forgave us for wronging Him, who are we to hold onto a grudge over someone wronging us?

Matthew 26:28
for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

The blood of Christ was spilled in order that we might be forgiven. If God went to this extreme for us, why can we not manage to forgive?

Matthew 18:21-35
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. "When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' "So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' "But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. "So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. "Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

1 John 4:20
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
We daily wrong God yet He forgives us. Why is this? It is because God is love. If God has forgiven us of every wrongdoing against Him, we are to do likewise to those who wrong us. If we do not, Scripture is very clear that the love of God is not in us for if it were, we would have already forgiven. It is not a matter of a commandment of God or imitating God. It is a matter of where we are in our relationship with God. If we cannot forgive, we need to double check our relationship with God.

1 Peter 3:8-12
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For,

Love one another just as God loves us. Forgive one another just as God has forgiven us. By doing this, our relationship with God will flourish. God is in control. He always has been and always will be. Let Him bless the righteous and have vengeance on the unrighteous in due time.

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