Points Covered: A sermon on forgiveness. Why do we have to forgive others? Seven reasons to forgive. The character of a forgiving person based on the life of Philemon.
Joke: One Sunday during his sermon, a preacher asks the congregation how many are willing to forgive their enemies. They all raised their hands except for one elderly lady in the back pew. The preacher noticed her and asked, “Mrs. Peter, why aren’t you willing to forgive your enemies?” “Well, I don’t have any,” she replied. “Mrs. Peter, you’re 96 years old and have no enemies?” No she said. “Oh Mrs. Peter, would you please come to the front and tell us all how a person can live 96 years and not have a single enemy in the world?” The old woman went to the stage, faced the congregation, and said: “All my enemies have died.”
Many of us have had hurtful experiences from the ones whom we truly and sacrificially love. Maybe some of you may have gone through those experiences a while ago or some of you are going through it now. The problem with hurt feelings is that how much ever time has passed by we can still have bitterness towards them in our hearts. Understand people can hurt us a million ways but it is we who make a choice to forgive them or not.
Last week we started on this series and I spoke to you in which way unforgiveness can harm us. Today, I want to continue with some foundational elements of forgiveness from the Bible.
I. Seven reasons to forgive.
1. Unforgiveness equals murder.
Exodus 20:16 You shall not murder. If you study the Bible, it is not only murder that is covered under this command, but a lack of forgiveness.
Matthew 5:21-22 21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. In other words, Jesus said, “When God said you shall not kill, He also meant you shall not hate, you shall not be angry, you shall not have a desire for revenge, you shall not exhibit a lack of forgiveness. God also forbids that.” The theology of forgiveness then really begins with the Ten Commandments. We are not only not to kill, but we are not to have unforgiveness that builds up anger and hatred and eventually murder. 1 John 3:15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer
2. Whoever has offended you has offended God greater.
Any crime against you is a greater crime against God. Now, will God forgive someone who sins against you? Will God forgive anyone who asks forgiveness from him? Absolutely yes! And if God, the most holy, has forgiven your offender of their greater sin, can you, the least holy, forgive him the lesser sin?
Listen, David had an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. In the process he sinned against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. In the process David also sinned against his own wife, his own children, and his own nation. David who sinned against all those people said in Psalm 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. In other words, he knew that no matter what offense he gave to men, he did a greater offense to God.
Now did God forgive David? Yes. So, if God can forgive the greater offense, then why can’t you forgive the lesser offense? That’s the point.
That is the issue in the parable of Matthew 18 where the king forgives the man the unpayable debt of 10,000 bags of god, and then the man won’t forgive another man a very simple debt of 100 silver coins but and throws him into prison. And the point is: how in the world can you see God forgive the greater offense and you not forgive the lesser? Any crime against you is a greater crime against God. Anytime someone sins against you, it may offend you; it offends God more. Why? He’s more holy than you are. Sin is more sinful to Him. It is more offensive to Him. The same offense may be a serious thing to you; it is a far more serious thing to an infinitely holy God. Yet God mercifully forgives. Are you more just? Are you more holy?
We have offended God more in the number of sins, we have offended God in the seriousness of our sins, and we have offended God in committing sins deserving greater consequences. No man could ever offend you the way you offend God, and God forgives you. So the point is this: If God can forgive you your greater sin and the one who sins against you offends God more, then you being the least offended should forgive.
3. God will not forgive you if you don’t forgive others.
Matthew 6:14-15 14For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. There is a high price to pay for a lack of forgiveness. If you refuse to forgive someone else, then God refuses to forgive you. You are cut off from meaningful communion with God.
4. Unforgiveness hinders fellowship with others.
You will not enjoy fellowship with others if you don’t forgive. No one likes an unforgiving person, a person who always talks about others mistakes. Generally, an unforgiving person is heated by the society but a forgiving person is loved by others.
Do you remember that parable in Matthew 18? Here was a man that God had forgiven but he wouldn’t forgive a friend. Matthew 18:31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
What is that? Your Christian friend or family who sees you with an unforgiving attitude is going to go to God and say, “God, You’ve got to discipline that person.” There is really a picture of church and family discipline. The saints collecting before God and saying, “God, look at that person, always judging, always bitter towards me or others, touch that person, carry out some discipline in that person’s life.” If you don’t forgive, they’ll be unforgiving, and they’ll ask God to deal with you. And so you’ll not only lose communion with God, but you’ll lose the sweet, encouraging, loving, affirming support of other family members or believers.
5. Vengeance belongs to God alone.
Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
When you curse the offender, take revenge or vengeance, you have taken the authority of God.
Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
You see when someone hurts us, there is a way that God repays that person. God is holy and righteous and he knows the right way to hold that person accountable in his time and his way. But when you won’t forgive someone, when you carry around that attitude of anger and bitterness and hostility, take revenge; you are presuming literally to take the divine judgment out of God’s hand and use it yourself. You’re saying, “God, give me your seat, I’m taking over because you are slow or unjust.”
God is far better able to deal with any offense against you than you. Leave the vengeance to God and you bless those who persecute you.
6. Unforgiveness makes you unfit for worship.
Matthew 5:23-24 23“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. God is telling, “Don’t worship me if you are not fully reconciled to your brother.” You can’t draw near to God with a mind of unforgiveness. You’re unfit for fellowship with God’s people or God.
7. Offences against you test your spiritual maturity.
The offences against you are your trials and temptations. You have to recognize that whenever someone offends you, that is a trial or temptation for you to deal with. God is testing you in those moments whether you will act like the children of devil or children of God. Matthew 5:43-45 43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
If you want to be a true Christian, then no matter what anybody does to you, you forgive them and you love them because every time somebody offends you, that is a trial or a temptation. If you forgive them; you pass the test, it is a trial producing strength. If you are not forgiving, you fail and it produces sin. The events that come to you in life go either way. A right response makes it a trial that produces strength; a wrong response makes it a temptation that produces sin.
You must be little concerned about the actions of others against you but be greatly concerned whether they become tests that make you strong or temptations that make you sinful.
Now I have given you 7 reasons to forgive. We forgive because: Unforgiveness equals murder. Whoever has offended you has offended God greater….. This is the theology of forgiveness.
With this in mind, let’s go to Philemon. Now as Paul is writing this letter to Philemon, Paul knows that Philemon knows his theology, his Bible well because Philemon is a senior believer. So Paul leaves it unsaid and is opening up the Christian character of Philemon that forgives.
Just a recap in case you are new with us: Philemon was a Christian businessman living in the city of Colossae and in his home the church at Colossae met. Paul led him to Christ. His wife was Apphia; his son, Archippus. They had a slave by the name of Onesimus. Onesimus wanted his freedom, so he ran away to Rome. On the run he stole some money and articles for his survival. And when he was in Rome, he met Apostle Paul, a prisoner in a rented house there. This runaway slave, Onesimus, was led to Paul, and Paul led him to Christ. Now, Paul sends him back to his owner, Philemon, with this letter asking Philemon to forgive him for his deeds. So, it is a call to a Philemon to forgive Onesimus who has sinned against him.
In Philemon 1:4-7 Paul gives the character of a person who forgives. Philemon 1:4-7 4I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
II. What kind of person forgives?
1. A person who loves the Lord.
Philemon 1:4-5 4I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.
Those who are reconciled to the Lord Jesus Christ have faith in God, are prepared to forgive.
2. A person who loves fellowship.
Philemon 1:5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. When Paul says “faith,” he’s talking about the faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ and when he says “love,” he says the love toward all his holy people. So if you care for the fellowship (family, colleagues, neighborhood, or the church) you will forgive.
Galatians 5:6 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. So if you have faith in God you will love your brother. If you love your brother you will forgive.
1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other.
In other words, you’re a Christian, you have a capacity to love and forgive. Paul says to Philemon, “I know you can forgive.” Why? “Your faith is real, so you love the Lord. Your love is real, so you love people how God loved you.”
Now Philemon really cares about the fellowship, the church that meets in his house. He is a part of it. He is concerned about fellowship. If you’re a Christian, you care about the fellowship. You’re concerned about others. Paul is saying, “Forgive Onesimus because you love the Lord and also love the fellowship you are in.” So the believer says, “I want harmony, so I will forgive.”
Here the meaning of fellowship is to belong to some group. You belong to a home that is why you will forgive your relatives. You belong to a church that is why you will forgive your brother. But if a person don’t care about the family or church will not forgive.
When we forgive at home we renew our commitment to the home. When we forgive at church we make strong statement about your concern for fellowship for the church.
3. A person who loves God’s wisdom.
Philemon 1:6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. When you became a Christian, God did put his wisdom in you. God has put in you, his good things.
Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Psalm 31:19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you.
Do you know there are a lot of good things in you? Now, Paul he says to Philemon: Philemon 1:6 I pray that ……. You may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.
How do I know about the good things that are in me? Do I read about them in a book? Understanding God’s wisdom in us, understanding the good things in us comes through experience, when I read the Bible and practice what is written in this book I experience it.
When I love when it is unlovable, then I understand the good things – Love of God in me.
When I find joy when there is trouble, then I understand the good things – Peace of God in me.
When I forgive when it is unforgivable, I understand the good things – forgiveness of God in me.
Paul is saying, “Philemon, if you forgive Onesimus you’re going to immediately experience the good thing God put in you.” In this case forgiveness. You could read about forgiveness in a book, you could hear somebody preach about forgiveness, but you really wouldn’t know it until you haven’t experienced it. You get to know the good things by exercising them.
Reading about a river or seeing a river in a Television is different than taking a boat ride through the river. You are so thrilled about the breeze, the scenery, the ride in itself. Experience is different. So when you forgive you will experience God and his wisdom in you.
4. A person who loves to be a blessing.
Philemon 1:7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
Philemon gives Paul great joy and encouragement. How? Philemon 1:7 ….you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. People in trouble, people suffering, hurting, and struggling have found Philemon to be a blessing. He was not a pastor or a Bible teacher. He was a businessman gave his house for the church. He helped people who were needy. He loves to be a blessing to people. Paul is saying, “Since you love to be a blessing you will forgive.” We forgive because we want to be a blessing to others. A selfish person cannot forgive but if you are humble and selfless and care about the blessing of others, you will forgive.
Well, Philemon by now has got to be saying to himself, “Man, I am something great because Paul commends of my faith, my love to people, my love to know God’s wisdom, and my love to be a blessing to others” Probably he was feeling great about this but then Paul hit the nail from v8 ordering him what to do:
Philemon 1:8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do:
Philemon 1:17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.
Anybody who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, anybody who loves the saints, anybody who loves the fellowship, anybody who loves godly wisdom, and anybody who loves to be a blessing is going to be a forgiver. It is only God’s people who can forgive. Let’s pray.