Dale D. Meredith
University Baptist Church
Nov. 26, 2017
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Good News Bible, The Bible in Today’s English Version, copyright ©1976 by American Bible Society. Used by permission.
Old Testament Reading: 1 Kings 2:1-12
New Testament Reading: Ephesians 4:31-32
31Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. 32Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
INTRODUCTION: Our Old Testament reading this morning tells one of the saddest incidents in the life of David. He had been king of Judah for forty years and was now near his death. He was turning the kingdom over to his son Solomon. However, David still wanted to get revenge against some people who had shown him great disrespect. In the case of Joab, he had carried his hurt for more than thirty-three years. While still in Hebron, David was working to establish himself at king of the entire nation. Abner, one of the military leaders, in the northern part of the nation was working to unite the entire nation under David. Without David’s knowledge or approval, Joab killed Abner to settle a personal grudge. This caused David embarrassment and a problem in uniting the kingdom (2 Samuel 3:22-39). David never forgave Joab, and David never forgot.
Then near the end of his time as king, his son Absalom had attempted a coup to replace David as king. As David was fleeing to safety from Jerusalem, Shimei, who had been loyal to King Saul more than forty years before, publicly cursed David (2 Samuel 16:5-13). After Absalom’s death David was returning to Jerusalem. Shimei came to David, apologized, and asked to be forgiven for showing the king disrespect. David wanted to appear strong and still prevent Shimei and his followers from rebelling. After all, Shimei did have one thousand men in an army with him. Therefore, David only promised not to put Shimei to death for his disrespect (2 Samuel 19:16-23). But David never forgave, and David never forgot.
I think it would be terrible to be about to die and the main things you could think about would be how to get revenge against those who you had shown you disrespect. For more than thirty-three years David had nurtured his hurt. It had grown to where he could only think of revenge as he neared death. David who wrote many of the Psalms expressing joy was not as happy as we often think of him as he approached death. There must be a better way to live.
After describing what the Israelites experienced in the wilderness during the Exodus as a result of disobedience Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:11, “All these things happened to them as examples for others, and they were written down as a warning for us.” We can learn from David. When he did not forgive it blocked his emotions of contentment and satisfaction. He could not think of his happy times with family and his achievements of leading the nation. He thought of his hurts and anger.
Holding anger is like taking poison. It kills from the inside. We may think that anger and hate are weapons that attacks the person who harmed us. However, the harm we do, we do to ourselves.
From previous lessons we have learned that the only things we control that contribute to our happiness are our attitudes and behaviors. We have learned that practicing generosity, focusing on the present, and expressing thanks contribute to happiness. Today we want to examine another attitude and behavior that can contribute to happiness.
FORGIVENESS: Joseph was abused by his brothers and sold into slavery (Genesis 37:12-28). Many years later Joseph made the decision to forgive his brothers (Genesis 45:1-11). It set Joseph and his brothers free from years of separation, reunited the family, and saved them from starvation. Forgiving people tend to be healthier, more contented, more satisfied, and more agreeable which describes happier people.
Forgiveness is a major biblical theme. Jesus emphasized that he came to forgive. Even on the cross he prayed that his executioners be forgiven (Luke 23:34).
Forgiveness is a gift from God. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” God loves you. He loves you so much he offers you forgiveness. In fact, God acted with love to provide the means whereby you can be forgiven of any offense against Him. Forgiveness means the removal of any fear between the weak, sinful, depressed, angry, hurt, upset, unloving you and the powerful, perfect, loving God. You can be at ease in His presence. In fact, you can be content, satisfied, loved, cared for, protected – that’s right you can be happy in his presence. God gives it to us.
Forgiveness is a gift to others. Our New Testament reading this morning from Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “31Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. 32Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.” As children of God you are called to forgive as He forgives you. If you forgive others, you are doing what pleases Him and are therefore giving Him a gift.
When you forgive as God forgives you then you are really giving others a gift: the gift of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift because it is not earned or paid for by the one who is forgiven.
Forgiveness is a gift to yourself. Again Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “31Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. 32Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.” To forgive requires that you get rid of bitterness, passion, and anger. These are the very things that rob you of your contentment and satisfaction. They rob you of your happiness. Therefore, to forgive others is really a gift to yourself.
God also says, “The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you (Luke 6:38).” Therefore, the forgiveness you give to others is the same way, or same amount, that God forgives you. Thus, a gift of forgiveness to others is a gift of forgiveness to yourself.
PRACTICING FORGIVENESS: The work of forgiveness is hard work. It may be the hardest work we are called to do as Christians. We are to follow Jesus and we are to become like Christians. Therefore, we must forgive as Jesus forgives. I can hear your objections now. Probably the first, would be: “If I had enough faith, I could forgive like Jesus.” The problem is that it is not a matter of faith. I don’t remember Jesus ever saying “If you have enough faith you should forgive others.” Also, he didn’t say “Have faith and forgive the one who hurt you.”
Our reading in Ephesians 4:31-32 does say, “31Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. 32Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.” We don’t say we don’t have enough faith to be bitter, angry, shout, insult, or hate. We seem to have enough faith to do that without much effort on our part. Our reading says “instead”, or, in place of those emotions and behaviors put “be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.” But that is not easy. It is work. It is not something you can do quickly and move on to the next action. It takes time to forgive. You keep remembering what or who caused the hurt and the old feelings and emotions keep coming back. You have to continually replace those old feelings and emotions with the feelings and behavior of forgiveness until you almost automatically no longer remember to be bitter, angry, hateful when the matter is brought to your attention.
There is no simple formula that you can follow. Forgiveness takes time and is hard. You have to think of it as a process. It takes a great deal of effort, will-power, and motivation. You must continue to practice. It is not one of our natural tendencies or skills. As in all things the more you practice the better you become.
You can begin with prayer. The prayer is really an ongoing prayer that you pray many times. Pray for the person. Pray that God will forgive the person. Pray that God will help you forgive the person. Visualize what your life would be life if you forgave the person. You might visualize that God enters into your life to replace the hurt with healing. Imagine God comforting and removing the hurt. Then, realize that He will actually do that.
To forgive someone does not mean that you condone or approve of the bad behavior. God forgives us and He doesn’t condone or approve of what we have done to be forgiven.
To forgive someone may not lead to reconciliation. The person may not acknowledge the need for forgiveness. God loves everyone and forgives everyone, but some do not acknowledge they need forgiveness, ignore the offer from God, and thus are never reconciled with God. The person may be dangerous and you cannot meet with them. You may need to forgive a mass killer who injured or killed someone close to you like has happened in some of the recent events. You would be unable to personally contact and forgive the person. The person may be dead. You can work through the process of forgiving the person. In some cases you may not affect the person with your forgiveness and you have to ensure that you remove yourself from situations where you would have to interact with the individual who continually hurts you such as in cases of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Forgiving someone is really more for your benefit that the one forgiven. Often the person you forgive doesn’t show any change in behavior or feelings. When you forgive you get rid of your “bitterness, passion, anger, shouting, insults, hateful feelings”
Some have found it helpful to write a letter forgiving someone. You may write how the person hurt you. This will help you focus on what specific thing caused your hurt. Write what you choose to forgive. This letter may never be sent. It may be only for you and God to see. The writing helps you focus on the process and commitment of forgiving. After committing to forgiving the person, hold onto that forgiveness.
Sometimes you must forgive yourself. You can use the same procedure as when forgiving someone else. This can be more difficult that forgiving someone else. However, remember whatever you have done God will forgive you and you can forgive yourself.
Sometimes you may need to talk to a pastor, friend, or counselor about you efforts and ask for further guidance.
CONCLUDING STATEMENTS: God offers forgiveness to all who will accept it. He has made the provision through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus by which our sins can be forgiven. It was costly for him, but free for us. God asks us to do the hard work of forgiving. We sometimes have to give up our superior feelings to forgive. Sometimes our offer of forgiveness is rejected as His is sometimes rejected. The process of forgiveness is often messy and does not go in an organized and planned way. That’s life. We continue to practice forgiveness because God has called us to do it and because it is for our own benefit. To practice forgiveness contributes to our happiness.