“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
It’s not hard to see that our world needs to be a more forgiving place. Our families need to be more forgiving places. Our churches need to be more forgiving places. And, of course, it’s easy to spot unforgiveness in others. It’s much harder when it’s our turn to forgive.
The reality is that we need to be more forgiving people. We have too much anger in our hearts. We have too many wounds we’re nursing. We have too many grudges we’re holding inside.
Unforgiveness always rises from a place of hurt. Because hurt people hurt people. And those hurt people then hurt more people, who in turn hurt still more people. On and on it goes until the world looks like our front-page news.
But what if forgiveness can turn the world upside-down? What if forgiveness is at the very heart of the life of the Kingdom of Heaven? What if forgiveness is a defining mark of those who follow the Way of Jesus?
In this sermon, we look at three upside-down characteristics about forgiveness:
- The Gravity of Forgiveness: There is a vital connection between the forgiveness we receive and the forgiveness we extend. To put it succinctly, unforgiving people are unforgiven people.
- The Symmetry of Forgiveness: There’s a connection between the forgiveness we receive from God and the forgiveness we extend to others. This connection isn’t one of causation, but of coordination. Causation is a relationship of cause and effect. But of course, you cannot earn forgiveness by what you do. The connection between the forgiveness we receive from God and the forgiveness we extend to others cannot be one of causation, because that would be a denial of the gospel and a contradiction of the overwhelming teaching of Scripture. Instead, the relationship is one of coordination, where receiving and extending forgiveness go together. There’s a symmetry to forgiveness; those who receive forgiveness naturally tend to extend forgiveness to others. In other words, forgiven people forgive people.
- The Trajectory of Forgiveness: We are forgiven so that we might become forgiving. God is making us likely Himself; gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, rich in mercy. To become like Him, the first thing we need to receive is God’s forgiveness. What does that mean? Forgiveness is not a feeling; forgiveness is not forgetting; forgiveness is not excusing; forgiveness is not reckless trust; and forgiveness is not anti-justice. At its core, forgiveness is the decision to pay the debt yourself and be done with it. And the most amazing thing is that that’s what Jesus did for us; He paid the price of our forgiveness.
Takeaway: Forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.
When we forgive others, there’s three important things to stay away from: don’t dwell on it, don’t weaponize it, and don’t gossip about it.
Where do you need to receive your father’s forgiveness? Where do you need to extend your Father’s forgiveness?
Living the Message episode available here: https://youtu.be/FlumV8X6qqY