Are you ready to break the chains of pain with the power of forgiveness? Prepare to journey with us as we navigate the complex terrain of forgiveness, discussing its potent impact on mending relationships and its role in emotional healing and spiritual growth. Together, we'll shatter the misconceptions surrounding forgiveness, reinforcing that it isn't about forgetting or justifying someone's actions, nor is it synonymous with immediate trust. Drawing from the profound teachings of Jesus, we invite you to redefine your view of forgiveness.
Venture further into the realm of forgiveness as we spotlight the enormous strength it brings and how it serves as a pathway to liberation. We'll discuss the brave decision to forgive, illuminating how it can be a constant, even hour-by-hour choice, and the importance of focusing on God's mercy rather than dwelling on the pain inflicted by others. Join us in a special prayer session, seeking divine guidance to center our thoughts on forgiveness. Brace yourself for a transformative exploration that will undoubtedly lead to emotional healing and spiritual growth.
So thank you for letting me come and be a part of what you're doing here at Madison Church. Often enough that I get to get here without GPS. It's huge. So thank you. I'm really excited to be here, not not as excited to talk about relationships, right? Stephen said oh yeah, we're doing this series on relationships, like you're really sure I Should be talking about relationships. I mean, we all have relationships, but conflicts happen all the time. Relationships can be really difficult, can't they? And, and I mean I've got some family that's estranged. I have, you know, three people that I Don't annoy to no end, that will call me their friend, maybe a couple more, but I don't know. And then you know, I didn't even get married until I was in my mid 40s. So what do I have to say about relationships, right? And then he said well, you're getting, you're getting the week of forgiveness. Oh, okay, I've got some stuff on forgiveness. So I've got about four hours worth of stuff. So buckle up. Hope you brought snacks, but I did pare down, so we won't be here for four hours. But conflicts happen all the time, right, and they're difficult, and most of us don't like conflict. Does anybody here actually like or enjoy being in a conflict nobody, nobody, ever. Once in a while somebody does, but Unfortunately conflict is just a part of life. It shows up everywhere and it happens in all different kinds of relationships. People Can be difficult. If you don't think people can be difficult, I would invite you to ask Megan or Chris next time he's able to join me, because those two are married to some of the most difficult people I know. So people are difficult. For some of us, we're in an open conflict, right? We everybody knows that we are in a conflict with that family member or that friend. Others of us just kind of quietly hold a grudge. You probably know which one you lean towards and maybe you do both right. The hurt and the pain and the frustration that we feel in Relationships is real and these broken relationships can really take a toll on us. Have you ever heard about or seen those pictures of people carrying big suitcases and it's all the weight of the grudge that they're that they're carrying? Maybe you even even felt that physically yourself when you've had some unresolved issue and it just feels heavy. Does anybody felt that? Yeah, it's, it's. It can be pretty Serious, it can be debilitating sometimes, and I found that there's actually some research on that. There were some researchers that asked Participants to write about a time that they experienced conflict and they had one group write about a time where they forgave the person, and the other group was supposed to Write about a time that they didn't forgive, that they were still holding that grudge. And then, while they were thinking about what they wrote down, they were asked to jump five times as high as they could and they found that those the group that had forgiven Average to jump that was eleven point eight inches and those who had the grudges Jumped an average of eight point five inches. The people who had forgiven jumped three inches higher. You guys, on average, isn't that crazy? Like they could, they could almost they could beyond feel that weight. The research suggested that that weight was actually causing them Difference, a physical difference. It's more than a metaphor and that really just blew my mind that we would be literally carrying physically the weight of unforgiveness. And I think the place that we often get stuck in this process of forgiveness is in thinking that, in order for the relationship to be Repared, it's the other person that needs to change. I mean, I know that's my first go to. Well, we wouldn't be in this conflict if they weren't XYZ or if they would XYZ. The other person needs to change, but Relational restoration, it begins with us. We have to do the work and In the series that we're going through here at Madison Church, we're encouraging one another to do the work of restoring relationships, and today we're gonna address forgiveness. Today is a day for freedom. It's a day for the weight to be lifted off of each of us. Today we're gonna explore and hopefully begin the work of forgiveness. So I'm gonna challenge you to think of one person, one relationship that you would like to see restored. There are some relationships that it's not feasible or even safe or healthy to restore, and I want to be really clear. We're not talking about that. I'm not saying go back to an abusive situation or a toxic relationship. I'm not saying that every broken relationship needs to be restored. Okay, in fact, if you, if that's the first thing that came to your mind. I just first want to say I'm sorry that you've experienced that that's difficult, and my prayer is that you're still able to connect with and engage with this topic with us and that the work of freedom and for forgiveness, the freedom of forgiveness, would be available to you as well. For most of us, god is able to bring a relationship that you know is worth fighting for, the relationship that he wants to restore. So try to keep that person in mind as you're here with us today, because to restore relationships, we have to do the work. We have to do the work of forgiveness. Now, when I say the word forgiveness, there might be all kinds of things running through your mind, right? I don't even know if I can forgive. Maybe I've tried, but I can't, or I don't even want to forgive that person. They're a jerk, right? It happens Often when we talk about forgiveness, we focus on what's required from us in order to forgive, and I just want to remind us to not forget about what forgiveness can do for us. There's an author, louis Smedes, and he wrote to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. I just think that's so powerful, so I'm going to say it again because I'm annoying like that To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. Forgiveness not only has the ability to restore relationships, but forgiveness can bring freedom. Forgiveness brings freedom from the weight of the burden of that grudge that we've been carrying around on our backs. Forgiveness brings freedom that can't be taken away from us. Forgiveness brings a peace that settles in our soul. I think any conversation about forgiveness it's worth taking just a moment and talking about what forgiveness is not. I think that's important. Have you ever heard the phrase forgive and forget? Anybody Forgive and forget? I hate that one. I hate it because I don't even know if that's possible, right? How do you just forgive and forget? Move on. I hate to say that. The myth here is that we have to forget and offense if we're going to forgive it. If we don't forget, then forgiveness isn't sincere. Well, that's just not even true. You might forget, but your forgiving can still be genuine, even if you remember what happened. We can go ahead and forget minor things, right? If Stephen cuts me off in traffic, I'm not going to hold onto that grudge for the next several years because it's probably not that big of a deal. Even though I might have beeped my horn and waved fingers or something at him, it's not a big deal. I can let that go. I might even forget about it next week, but other times it can be dangerous to forget the uncle that sexually assaulted me. I can get to the point of forgiveness, but I will not forget he does not have access to my children. We are not going to hang out. I can forgive, but forgetting is dangerous. Forgiveness is not forgetting and then simply acting as if it didn't happen, something we forgive. Or sometimes we forgive and then we also have to set a boundary. Sometimes we forgive and then there's repair work that needs to be done. Sometimes healthy distance or clarifying expectations are necessary before a relationship can actually be restored. To do the work of forgiveness, we can't just forget. Another myth about forgiveness says that to forgive I have to say what happened is okay. So let's be clear Forgiveness does not mean a lack of justice or consequences for the harm or the offense that was done. When you forgive someone, you're not excusing their behavior. In fact, you're actually holding them accountable for their behavior. When you choose to forgive, it implies that there was a wrong that needed forgiving. Forgiveness doesn't just look the other way, it addresses the actual problem. And then a third myth is that to forgive means that I have to trust that person immediately. Now, trust is a big topic and I hear Steven's going to talk about it next week. So I think forgiveness and trust can go hand in hand. So make sure you're here next week for that. I know I'm probably going to have to tune in online to hear it myself. That's going to be a good one, I'm pretty sure. But forgiveness doesn't mean that you have to trust them right away. Forgiveness doesn't mean immediate reconciliation. In many cases, the goal of forgiveness is that that relationship will be restored. But I want to be super clear that forgiveness doesn't always mean reconciliation, especially in situations where there's been abuse that's taken place. Sometimes the best and the wisest thing is for that relationship to end, even though you may have forgiven that person. Some relationships come and go and there are situations where that's okay. In most cases, forgiveness will lead to reconciliation. If you choose to invite that person who hurt you back into your life after forgiveness, and if they come honestly, love can move both of you toward a new and healed relationship. Forgiveness often depends on the person you forgive as much as it depends on you. Sometimes they don't come back and you have to go through that healing work on your own. You can still forgive. Forgiveness isn't dependent on another person's acknowledgement of what they did. Forgiveness isn't dependent on an apology. Forgiveness isn't even dependent on reconciliation to be fulfilled. And Matthew 18, jesus has this little chat about forgiveness with his buddy Peter. And it starts when Peter comes to ask him a question. And it starts chapter 18, verse 21. It says Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times. Before we get into what Jesus' response was, I think it's important to understand the question itself. Peter is actually above and beyond here. Even asking this how many times? How many times? Shows that he knows he's supposed to forgive. Even though culturally that wasn't the norm, I mean, we think it's normal. Of course he's supposed to forgive, right, he's supposed to. That's what Christians do. But the first century person wouldn't typically think that way. In the first century, conflicts were thought and relationships were viewed on a line and it was like a line between me and you and if you wronged me, I have an obligation to reciprocate that wrong. My honor is at stake. If I just simply let that offense go, I could be accused of being a coward. I'm not okay with that. Retaliation was a noble option at that point. So the fact that Peter knows that he's supposed to forgive shows he's already starting to get it. He's already starting to assimilate the teachings of Jesus into his life and he's beginning to understand that Jesus is calling his followers to a different way. And the fact that he suggests forgiving seven times, I mean he probably thought he was super generous, right? Like, hey, jesus, I'm supposed to forgive like seven times. He's confident he knows he's on the right track. But Jesus responds in verse 22. I tell you, not seven times, but 77 times. So Jesus's response takes forgiveness to this whole new level that Peter didn't expect. Basically, jesus says forgiveness doesn't have a limit, you just keep doing it. And then he goes on and he tells Peter a story that redefines forgiveness. Verses 23 through 27 say this therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him 10,000 bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this, the servant fell on his knees before him. Be patient with me, he begged and I will pay back everything. The servants master took pity on him and cancelled the debt and let him go. So this servant owed the king a ridiculous amount of money. The English translation that we read from right now just says 10,000 bags of gold. Scholars estimate that that would have been the equivalent of 193,000 years worth of wages. There was no way this guy was ever going to repay this king. Yet in his mercy, the king cancels the debt. Story continues verse 28 and 29. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him Payback what you owe me, he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him be patient with me and I will pay it back. So a hundred silver coins, it's roughly four months wages, which is pennies compared to what he just was forgiven. He had a zillion dollars cancelled and this is how he responds, verse 30, but he refused. Instead he went off and he had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. I mean, are you kidding me with this? This guy had so much money, he had such great debt that he owed and was merciful. The king was merciful to him and forgave him, and then he goes out and finds somebody that owes him pennies compared to what he owed and it's like no, you go to prison, you owe me. Why? Why did he do that? I Think the reason that he didn't forgive is because he didn't really understand what it meant to be forgiven, and it's the truth that we need to understand that forgiveness is a choice to cancel a debt. You know this story that Jesus told us very counter cultural at the time and he does something that in that time they just didn't do and they never would have thought of doing this in a time of conflict, and that is that he brought God into the equation. So remember I told you that first century culture it would. They viewed it on a line. There was a relationship in those conflicts on a line, a line between you and me. If you wronged me, I had the obligation to retaliate, but Jesus says no, uh-uh, you need to view this more as a triangle. You need to bring God into it. Jesus redefines forgiveness by reminding us that everyone, every one of us, has or has the opportunity to have our debt canceled that we never could have repaid. God, in his mercy, paid the debt himself. By sending Jesus, god has forgiven us, and Jesus makes it so clear that we are to forgive one another. No more retaliation. When we don't forgive, just like the servant in Jesus's story, we end up carrying that weight. We are the one chained to the pain and weighed down by that burden. We're actually the one who ends up imprisoned. And this is why forgiveness is so important. It's not just about the other person, it's about us. When someone has done something that has hurt us, in a sense they've taken something from us right. Their words or their actions might leave us robbed or feeling like we've been robbed of peace, trust, happiness and, as a result, they're in debt to us. Forgiveness it's a choice to cancel that debt. It's the choice to tell that other person you don't owe me anymore. Your debt is canceled. Forgiveness doesn't mean that the harm that was done never happened, but it can help you feel free from that anger and that resentment that eventually takes a toll on you physically, emotionally, spiritually. When unforgiveness takes root in our lives, that anger and that resentment can hold us captive, spilling over into other relationships. We can end up hurting people that had nothing to do with the situation. It can potentially lead to depression, anxiety and ultimately rob us of that joy that Stephen was praying for earlier. Remember that quote from Lewis Meads Super important Forgiveness means to set the prisoner free, only to find that the prisoner was you. Forgiveness is a choice to cancel a debt and it's a courageous choice. It takes guts to do that. We free the person that harmed us and in doing so, we free ourselves. So what about you? Do you want to rid yourself of the weight from being hurt? Rid yourself of that anger, the bitterness, the resentment that keeps you down? Just choose to cancel the debt you owed. That sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? No problem, but honestly, how do we even do that? How do we cancel that debt? We cancel that debt. Choosing to forgive and cancel the debt of someone who harmed you. It can feel painful and even impossible. We need to first have the help of the Holy Spirit. We can't do this on our own. We need the Holy Spirit to help us, give us strength, the strength to forgive, and sometimes we even have to pray for the will to forgive. Has anybody else ever been there? God? I know I should forgive this person, but I don't even want to. I need your help. Help me to want to forgive If the wounds are really deep or you've been holding onto them for a long time. It can be helpful to get a good therapist and have them walk you through some of the steps, those first steps of forgiveness. There's no shame in therapy. If you need it, go it's important. True forgiveness takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Each of our journeys toward forgiveness is deeply personal, but I want to share some steps that can kind of help all of us. The first thing we need to do is acknowledge the debt. You cannot forgive a debt that you haven't fully recognized. If you haven't acknowledged that you've been hurt, one thing you can do is think of somebody you might be mad at, angry, bitter towards. A counselor once told me that anger is a protective feeling. She said we have to recognize it for what it is. It's covering up pain that we don't want to be hurt. It's covering up pain that we don't want to feel. Anger is unexpressed pain. Once you identify who's hurt you, who it is that you need to forgive, it's important to identify how you were hurt. What is the debt and this is where it gets really specific for you Identify what happened that hurt you. I was betrayed, I was lied to, I was abandoned, I was disrespected, I was rejected. Identify the debt. What does it mean? What does that person then owe you Right? What did they take from you? What did they rob you of? What isn't a part of your life because of what they did or didn't do? Maybe they took your childhood. Maybe they ruined your reputation. Maybe they robbed you of your income. Maybe they shattered your self-worth. Maybe they broke your heart. Dets are real. Don't excuse them, don't blow over them, don't ignore them. Maybe they intended to hurt you and maybe they don't even know that they did it. The important thing in this step is to ask yourself what was taken from me and what debt am I owed? Once we do that, then we can move forward and ask God to be a part of our equation. Because here's the truth I will never find freedom from the hurt, the anger and the bitterness while I focus on that line between me and the one who hurt me. I will never find the motivation to forgive. While I'm focused on that person and myself, when I'm focused on the pain that someone else caused me, I will only find freedom. I will only find motivation when I refocus my attention on that triangle, when we include God into it. Once I bring God into it, the whole thing changes. When we find ourselves struggling to forgive, we need to divert attention away from that line, away from the person that hurt us, and refocus on that triangle To the one who forgave us a debt that we couldn't repay. Ask God to help you. Ask Him for the power to forgive as you've been forgiven. Ask Him again and again and again, if you need to. God understands. God can give us the ability to respond to the hurt that someone else has caused the same way he's responded to us. Do they deserve it? Probably not. Do they deserve it? Bring God into the equation and let him empower you to take the next step, and that next step is to cancel the debt. So here is where it gets exciting. You can understand that you have the power to cancel debt. In both the scenes in Jesus' story, it was the one who had the debt who had the power to cancel it. So the one who was wronged had the power to cancel. Isn't that empowering to us To know that the choice is given to you? This is a choice you can make. When deciding to forgive, you're deciding that you no longer demand payment or repayment. It's not an easy decision Of course it's not, but it's a courageous decision and it's a decision that you have the power to choose. And finally, forgiveness means reminding yourself of that decision. Forgiveness involves partnering God with God for heart transformation. Rarely do we make the decision to forgive somebody and that's that Done deal. Never have to think about it again. It can take a long time for God to do this work in our hearts. We have to remind ourselves that we chose to forgive. Forgiveness can be a daily and even hourly decision. We must choose to claim the freedom of forgiveness and not return to that resentment and bitterness. So I want to leave you with a short prayer to help you do the work of restoring relationships, a short prayer to help you focus on forgiveness. That's as easy as breathing. You guys did this last week, right, you had a short breathing prayer. So on the inhale, god of forgiveness, exhale, help me forgive. So let's try it together Breathe in, god of forgiveness, exhale, help me forgive. That's something you can do anywhere, anytime, any place. Maybe forgiveness has left you feeling like you're holding your breath, overwhelmed by your hurt and your resentment, unable to experience the fullness of joy and peace that God intends for you and I want you to know there's hope. I want you to know that there is peace and that forgiveness cannot erase the past, but it can bring you freedom. Just inhale, god, of forgiveness. Help me forgive To restore relationships. We must do the work of forgiveness.