To let go or not?

Speaker: Rev. Shine Thomas

INTRODUCTION

Feelings of hurt and pain are normal parts of everyday life. We all get hurt for various reasons. Can you imagine the days when you could not work normally, you just could not eat well, you were so disturbed and probably even had sleepless nights thinking about the pain caused to you by someone close to you? These are all signs of hurt caused by emotional and mental suffering. Eventually, when we are hurt repeatedly by someone bitterness develops in us towards that person.

Well, today I would like to talk to you about what I believe is the most difficult thing we are asked to do as a Christian.

This morning we are going to see why and how we are to forgive others. We will also see some examples of forgiveness.

Understand, people can hurt us in a million ways, and forgiveness isn’t always easy. Whether you’ve been cut off in traffic, accused by an in law, betrayed by a spouse, badmouthed by a co-worker, or abused by your parents, we are faced with a variety of situations that can hurt us. Ultimately it is you who make the choice of whether you forgive them or keep all hatred in your heart.

WHY SHOULD I FORGIVE?

a. I forgive because Jesus commanded me to forgive.
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

b. My sins are forgiven if I forgive others.
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

c. I forgive so that my prayers will not be hindered.
Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

d. Forgiveness is good for my health.
A study shows the following benefits of forgiveness: Decrease in anxiety, depression, grief, anger, negative thoughts, decreased vulnerability to substance use, decreased heart rates and blood pressure etc. If you keep vengeance and hatred in your heart it is you who is getting destroyed. The person who hurt you is happy as ever.

Lewis Smedes “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Yes we need to forgive the people who have hurt us.

HOW DO I FORGIVE THE ONE WHO HURT ME?

1. Confess to God that you have been hurt

We all get hurt some time or the other by people. The usual response when we are hurt is that we pretend what she/he has said or acted against us has not really bothered us. We say, “It does not bother me, I don’t care a bit about it, I don’t lose anything.” These sentences come out of hurt within us. Until we are willing to admit that we were hurt by them, we are not in a place to forgive them. Confess to God that you are hurt.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Illustration: Once, there was a brother who was upset by his past deeds and decided to confess all of his sins to his pastor. “Pastor, I am a thief.” Pastor said, “Yes brother, close your eyes and tell me what all you have done and finally we will pray together for forgiveness.” “Pastor, yesterday, I visited my friend’s house and he was alone. When he went to get a cup of water I stole his purse.” “That’s bad my brother, fortunately you realize your mistake.” “Pastor, last week I went to the bank, but nobody was around except for the cashier, I threatened her and stole the cash.” “That’s not very good of you.” “Pastor, last month I was walking and I saw an old man walking alone. He had an Apple I Phone. I threatened him and stole his phone.” But there was no reply from the pastor. “Pastor? Pastor?” With no response from the pastor this brother opened his eyes. There was no pastor around. So he began searching for him. “Pastor Where are you?” He searched high and low, and finally he found the pastor hiding under the table behind the drums. “Pastor, why are you hiding here?” “Sorry son, suddenly I remembered there is nobody around here except me.”

Confess all your hurt feelings to God. God cares for you. Do not cover up. Come to a realization that you have been hurt and you need God’s help.

2. Surrender your right for revenge

Usually when we are hurt we try wait for the right time to take revenge. We usually say, “I will show him who I am, every dog has a day” and so on.

Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Illustration: A mother ran into the bedroom when she heard her 7-year-old son scream. She found his 2-year-old sister pulling his hair. She gently released the little girl’s grip and said comfortingly to the boy, “Sorry boy, she didn’t mean it. She doesn’t know that it hurts.” He nodded his head and the mother left the room. As she went outside the room the boy pulled his sister’s ponytail and the little girl screamed. Rushing back the mother asked, “What happened?” The little boy replied, “Mom, now she know it hurts.”

The rule of the world is ‘do unto others as they’ve done unto you.’ The Bible teaches us forgive as the Lord forgave us.

When we forgive we are leaving the ultimate justice and vengeance to God. Maybe some would say that only the weak take such path. If you forgive you will be treated like a doormat, people will stamp over you. I truly believe there is a power that is released when you decide to forgive.

Illustration: Graham Staines and his two sons, Timothy and Phillip, were burned alive in Manoharpur village of Orissa in the early morning of Jan 23, 1999. A mob blocked the doors of their van where they were sleeping, poured petrol on the vehicle, and shouted political slogans. The mob surrounded them from all sides and never let them come out of the vehicle. Graham Staines and his two sons were burned alive. Charred beyond recognition and reduced to fragile frames of ashes, the three bodies lay clinging to each other in what must have been a vain attempt by Staines to protect his children from the mob and fire. Even in death they were inseparable. Reportedly the murderers were led by a political activist Dara Singh.

The next day his wife Gladys Staines issued a statement that they are determined to continue his work. She announced her forgiveness to those who had murdered her family. Gladys sang the song “Because He Lives” at the funeral of her husband and two sons.

Eight months later: Bhubaneswar, Sept 22, 1999. The Designated CBI Judge, Mahendra Nath Patnaik, handed out the death sentence to Dara Singh and sentenced 12 others to life imprisonment for killing Graham Staines and his two sons. Gladys Staines, “I have forgiven the killers and have no bitterness because forgiveness brings healing and our land needs healing from hatred and violence.”

Because of these events, Christ has been proclaimed from the front pages of the newspapers and TV channels in India and across the world. The statement of Gladys Strains had such a powerful impact that the whole world was stunned with the Christian love of this forgiving widow.

Yes, there is such a great power released from you when you decide to forgive others.

Now I want to draw a parallel here. Forgiving someone does not mean that that person should not be punished. If you keep forgiving a person then he takes you for granted and will hurt you again. The key here is your motive. Do you want them to be punished because of your anger or hatred towards them or do you want them to be punished because you want their heart changed and punishment is the most likely route for that to happen.

Illustration: Suppose you own a factory and your poor friend brings his son to work with you. This boy steals some money and runs away. After some time the family is again in poverty and your friend asks forgiveness and brings him back to work. What would you do?

If you just take him to work because of pity you are telling him you can cheat me again it is okay. The next time you cheat me you can tell me a sorry again. That is not forgiveness. Forgiveness is to take the bitterness out from your heart towards the person who hurt you. Be frank and let the person who hurt you know that he cannot play the fool with you and he has to bear the consequence of his actions.

Look at Jesus; you will get the essence of this message with this example.

Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane and sentenced for crucifixion. Judas, Jews, and the Roman officials are equally responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. Interestingly Jesus prayed while he was crucified. We usually pray where we can get away from the noise and confusion of the world. We pray in gardens, in churches, and houses. We feel cross is not a right place to pray. People curse on cross. We scream on crosses. We cry on crosses. Jesus hung between heaven and earth and was praying for forgiveness for the people who are doing wrong to him.

Jesus prayed: Luke 23:33-34 33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The verb used in the Greek by Luke for this prayer is a continuous repeated action. Scholars say Jesus did not pray this prayer once Jesus repeated this prayer again and again. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Now listen: Jesus is not praying for a blanket pardon for the people who participated in his crucifixion. Jesus was not praying that since they are crucifying him in their ignorance, so Father please forgive them.

Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Peter is saying you Jews acted in ignorance in crucifying Jesus and there is no doubt about that and in your ignorance you fulfilled what God told by the prophets that Christ had to suffer. Peter is saying since you acted in ignorance “now repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.” They had to repent of their mistake. If Jesus already forgave them on the cross then why would Peter ask them to repent again?

Now, the meaning of the word used by Jesus in telling Father forgive them is not the meaning we understand forgive – Forget and wipe out completely. Jesus is telling, “Father when they realize their mistake and come to you; do not hinder, do not interfere, do not stop them from coming to you.”

How would a righteous God feel when the wicked world is crucifying his son? How would you feel? That is why Jesus is praying, “Father don’t rush to show your wrath. Hold your punishment, don’t interfere. I have already forgiven them.”

Listen, Jesus already forgave them but it is up to the people who crucified Jesus to understand their mistakes and ask God for repentance. When people hurt us (purposely or ignorantly) our attitude should be as that of Christ – forgive them then and there. To get accept them back, to work with them in the same capacity, to continue the relationship is a case by case scenario and you are the best judge for that.

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

CONCLUSION

You and I are here today because Jesus prayed that prayer 2000 years ago and that prayer is still being honoured by God in heaven. When you forgive the ones who hurt you, God the Father will forgive our sins.

First of all ask God to forgive us. Secondly, take time to think of the people who hurt you and unconditionally forgive them. Amen and God Bless You!