Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Shepastor: “Forgiveness is a Challenge and a Process…”


19 Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.

20 For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.

21 Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?

22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 19-24, KJV

We face many challenges in life.  Challenges are inevitable.  In our society we make sport of challenges.  At one time, one of the most popular shows on T.V. was the “Biggest loser.”  This show focuses on weight loss challenges.  The teams compete against each other to see who can lose the most weight over a specific amount of time.  I can tell you that losing physical weight is a challenge!  Take a year to lose fifty and two weeks to gain it back!  It is a challenge to lose physical weight.

But there is another kind of weight that is exceedingly difficult to lose - the weight of an unforgiving heart.  It is a challenge to forgive when you’ve been hurt.  It’s a challenge to forgive when you feel that you’ve been damaged.  It is a challenge to forgive when the perpetrator of your hurt never acknowledges the wrongful acts committed.

It can be a daunting thing to have to forgive.  Yet, as Christians, we know that this is what God’s Word requires of us.  Greater yet, it is what the heart of God desires for us – to be free from the weight of bitterness, brokenness and unforgiveness. 

Some of the challenges of forgiving include:

-        It’s hard to forgive because it hurts.  It aches. 

-        It’s a challenge to forgive because we desire justice – we serve a Just God, we are made in God’s image and something down deep inside of us cries out for justice and judgment against those who have done us wrong.  We want them to pay.  We want them to know that you can’t mess with us and get away with it!  We want somebody to kick their you know what!

-        It’s a challenge to forgive because we don’t want God to have mercy on them – but to bring judgment down upon them.

-        It’s a challenge to forgive because often we are still suffering either physically, emotionally, financially or psychologically because of another’s misdeeds.

-        It’s challenging because very few find the courage to apologize for the wrongs committed

-        And it’s challenging because so many times, it appears that we are struggling while they are prospering.  We have the dilemma of the Psalmist …“why do the wicked prosper?”

Those are a lot of reasons, seemingly good reasons we hold onto.  There is no quick formula that we can rattle off that will cause your pain to evaporate.  Forgiveness is a challenge.  It requires sacrifice.  A sacrifice is something that you give at a cost.  If it was easy, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice.  But forgiveness is a sacrifice.  It’s a sacrifice because it requires that you deny yourself the right to hold onto anger, to seek revenge, to spew out poisonous, venomous words, thoughts and behaviors against the individual(s).  

It is a sacrifice because you have to make the decision to let it go and release it to God and trust Him to make it right.   It’s a sacrifice because you have to trust God that He knows you’ve been hurt, He knows you’ve been wronged, He knows what was done was unfair, unkind, unjust, uncalled for and in some instances inhumane.  But you have to sacrifice all that stuff on the altar of love and forgiveness and trust that God, who doeth all things well is going to heal you, and deliver them.

The thing about perpetrators of wrong that we miss, because our pain blinds us –is that they are dying, they are decomposing, they are hood winked. The devil has sold them a false bill of goods and they think that they are riding high.  The Bible declares, however, that we will reap, what we sow.  When you sow the wind, you will reap the world wind.

In spite of all of that, forgiveness is still a challenge. We want folks to “get it!”  But God’s heart is not like ours.  He knows the heart, mind and soul of not only those who are walking upright, but those whose hearts are hard toward him.  The scripture says that it is not His will that anyone perish…not the abuser, not the oppressor, not the former police officer, Derek Chauvin, not white supremacists, not murderers, adulterers, hate-filled people…not anyone.  The Lord sees what we cannot see.  He sees that they are headed for destruction.  He sees that they are headed for eternal separation from Him.  He sees that satan has totally fooled them.  God never wants us to have to experience what Jesus took for us on the cross.

When Jesus took upon himself all of the sins of the world, for a moments time, He experienced separation from His father – the agony was so great that he cried out, “my God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?”  Separation from Him is so deep, so agonizing, so excruciating, that the Lord does not desire that for anyone. We desire mercy for ourselves, but not for our enemies. But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He cried out on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

Forgiveness is not only a challenge, but a process. Jesus himself went through a process as he contemplated the agony of the cross… “Father, if it be possible, remove this cup…Father forgive them for they know not what they do…My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me???”

While some try to “theologize” Jesus’ utterances away, I would argue that Jesus was allowing the experiences of humanity to be recorded so that we would understand a bit more about the journey. It is so easy for the Church… “religious folk” to demand that we forgive as soon as the dagger has struck, as soon as the injustice has occurred, as soon as the pain has sought to bury us. God’s grace and mercy, however, reveals another path in the scriptures.

David in the 139th Psalm declared, “Do not I hate them that hate thee? I hate them with perfect hatred…” His initial response was hatred. He even justified his hatred by saying that he was just hating these wicked souls because they were disrespectful to God! Deep down in David’s heart, however, he knew that it was not God’s hatred, but his own. David then turned and prayed, “Search me oh God and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

David was honest with God about how he felt towards his enemies. He hated them! He was clear on his feelings. But then he prayed and asked God to search him, try him to see if there was any wickedness in him and lead him in the way everlasting. David went through a process…

Jesus desires that we, like Him, make the sacrifice to forgive.  He is calling us to take the challenge to forgive and be grateful when they repent. Forgiveness and gratefulness are what distinguishes us from the rest of the world. Jesus said that they will know we are Christians by our love. Forgiveness is a challenge.  It is not an event. It is a process.  It does not mean that you automatically will forget all of the hurt, all of the pain, all of the stuff that came along with the wrong committed.  But it means that you accept the challenge to begin the journey towards healing.  It means that you accept the challenge to get it all out – tell God and maybe some other trusted human being all of the stuff that is consuming you.  Get it out, look at it, talk about it, dissect it and then ask God to help you release it.

We cannot do it on our own.  It will be a process.  But if we begin the process, we will discover that as we get it out, as we confess our hurt, our anger and our pain, as we pray and ask God to help us go beyond it, we will find increasing the strength to let it go.  You’ll find increasing strength to feel sorry for them.  You’ll find increasing strength to genuinely pray for them and you’ll find increasing strength to trust God for the outcome. We will find the grace, mercy and strength to pray for their salvation and gratefulness when they turn from their wicked ways.

God is not unjust.  God will address wrong doing.  When God forgives, He does not necessarily erase the consequences of our behaviors.  But He will erase the eternal consequences of damnation.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  His forgiveness of our sins came long before we had a mind to repent and turn.  We love Him because He first loved us.

Ask the Lord to help you to forgive and to be grateful today, be healed, be delivered and be set free.

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,

Pastor Chris