"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." - Colossians 3:12-13
Think for a moment about the hardest thing you have had to do or could imagine being forced to do. It could be something physical, something emotional, or something spiritual. It could be a combination of many things or a singular action that requires incredible courage, strength, or sacrifice. Often times, whatever the task may be that you are thinking of, it will require time, energy, may come with pain or hurt, and is something that you wish you didn’t have to do.
Throughout the Bible God gives us commands. These are instructions that are meant to bless our life rather than pin us down into a box. When a command is followed it results in favor from the Lord and it helps to align your life with the way God designed it to be. He didn’t say the commands would be easy to follow or even that we would agree with all them, but He did say He would go with us, never leave us or forsake us, and that He would give us the strength to follow and overcome.
One of the things many people struggle with is the command to forgive. In Colossians 3:12-13 Paul instructs us (by God’s command) to be different as God’s chosen people, to not bottle or departmentalize our hurts, and to forgive. Notice the closing words of Paul, (verse 13b) “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also MUST forgive.” It’s here that we are quick to insert our “but” and to give God our reasons, an ultimatum as it may be, for why the hurt we are feeling is beyond forgiveness and why forgiveness doesn’t apply to my situation.
BUT you don’t know the hurt I am feeling...You don’t know what has been done to me, to someone I love...You don’t know the extent of what he or she did...You just don’t understand…
No, I don’t, but I know a God who does. I know a God who endured the same physical and emotional pain. A God who was tempted, beaten, and bruised...who felt the pain and sting of death and STILL...chose to forgive.
Friends, there is NOTHING beyond the reach of God.
“For nothing will be impossible with God.” - Luke 1:37 ESV
Friends, there is NO HURT or PAIN that God, through His Son, did not already endure and experience. And still, God forgave us. And still, God loved us.
“Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation…” - 2 Corinthians 1:3-6a
Forgiveness isn’t easy, it’s almost never convenient, and it’s almost always a sacrifice. A sacrifice of rights, sometimes respect, often times it’s not what the world or others will tell you to do, but it is what God commands.
But yes...forgiveness will take time. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you keep living or doing the same thing, that you accept someone the same way, but that you accept them the way God sees them...the way He sees you...forgiven. Forgiveness is hard, sometimes it comes after a long road of refining and healing. Forgiveness is the example of Christ.
“The Bible says we are to forgive as God forgave us. When God forgave us, he didn’t say, “I forgive you, but we can’t have a relationship. I mean, I won’t hold your sins against you, but we’re not going to have anything to do with each other. You go your way, I’ll go mine.” No, God’s forgiveness of us leads to him reconciling with us despite our sin.” (Idleman, 2017, p. 124).
I wish, here within this message, I could photocopy or type every word that Kyle Idleman writes in his book Grace is Grace (2017) from Chapter Seven on Grace being more reconciling than your resentment. Idleman writes about two stories that are powerful examples of forgiveness and grace. Within the text (and if you don’t have the book I would encourage you to purchase it and read it) he writes about the pain Joyce Meyer, speaker and author, felt growing up. How her father at a young age molested her and raped her...even as much as 200 times before she turned 18. And still, though hard, through a lifetime of questions, likely counseling, pain, and heartache...Joyce chose to forgive. So much so that she eventually, through her forgiveness, she’s her father come to the Lord, seek repentance for what he did to her, and be baptized. Joyce was even the one (the afflicted to the offender) that gets to baptize! Wanna talk about a man, a situation, that the world says is beyond forgiveness. Rape...200 times...unforgiveable right?! Not by God’s grace. Only by God’s grace.
The other example involves a mother and father that lost their teenage son to a drunk driver. The drunk driver is eventually released on probation. What! How dare the broken system that didn’t bar him for life and throw away the key! Right? As the story goes though and only through the incredible grace and mercy that God gives all of us through the choice to follow after His Will, the mother and father of the son who died, forgive. They go as far as to meet with the boy, build a relationship with him, tell him about Jesus, take him to church, and eat with him every Sunday after service. As a result of their willingness to forgive, God got the glory. The boy accepts the Lord, becomes changed, and is accepted even as a son by the family who lost their son by his actions. These are examples of what God can do when we chose to forgive. These are examples of terrible things that turned into beautiful stories by God’s grace. These are stories of what can happen when we let go and let Him lead.
Ok pastor...enough, right? Where are you going with this?
My prayer for you, my plea...is that before all else (emotions, feelings, major decisions, the voices you hear that are telling you there is NO WAY or that the sin caused against you is TOO GREAT) that you seek after the Will of God for your life and that you examine and abide by His commands through the Word of God. My prayer is that you will give over everything to God and allow Him to work in and throughout the situation you are struggling with and that you will seek (above all else) a resolution and hope that honors God.
I am not condoning nor do I agree in any form with sin, abuse, or the pain that has been caused to you. Sin, in any form, is wrong and God will deal with the heart of the offender. My position though is to present the Word of God to you, to pray and trust in His plans, and to believe in the one who saves. And don’t think for a minute that this pastor, this everyday Joe, doesn’t deal with his own hurts, who finds it hard to forgive, and that still feels the pain of past hurts. I do, everyday. But everyday, I make a choice to forgive.
As a church, as God’s people (for those that have made it this far in my message...congrats and thank you) I ask that you pray earnestly for our people. That you pray for the sanctity of marriage, the establishment of the Christian home, and the spiritual security of our families. I also ask that you pray for this pastor whose heart breaks for the pain people feel, the heartache that many are enduring, and the pain caused through terrible sin and the consequences of the self.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” - John 8:7b
I am not worthy to throw a stone to condemn the one who hurt me because I am just as much a sinner. We all fall in this boat. We all fall short.
May God bless our church and our families. May God protect us and work through us. May God be ever present in every decision we make. May God lead us. May God do what only He can do and may we be able to know His will and plan, even when it’s the hardest thing to do.
I love you and am praying for you today!