A week ago Pastor Bryan Neal
began a new preaching series through the New Testament book of Philemon. He challenged us to consider scripture’s demands that we forgive one another as we have been forgiven, and helped us to look deeply into what it means to truly forgive. One helpful quote from Knute Larson that he shared defined what forgiveness is, and is not:
“Forgiveness is not a cover-up or a game of “let’s pretend”. It’s not a performance in which we shrug our shoulders and pretend that the offense was “Oh, no big deal.” Forgiveness is not gritting determination to keep going, no matter what. Sheer willpower to overlook or minimize an offense will never achieve forgiveness. Such an approach often creates bitterness instead, especially when the other person fails to respond as desired. Forgiveness is not passive resolve to wait the problem out, hoping that time will heal all wounds. Forgiveness is not excusing people who offend our personal preferences or who annoy us by their selfish choices. These may test our tolerance levels, but not our willingness to forgive. While tolerance makes allowances, forgiveness releases a legitimate debt.”
Pastor Bryan pointed us to the gospel as the motivation and model for forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35). When addressing the question of when we should forgive and if it depend’s on someone asking for it, he said:
Who’s our pattern of forgiveness? Jesus. So, if He’s our pattern for forgiveness, when did He do the work of forgiveness? Did He wait to do the work of forgiveness until you came and asked? If that’s the case, then every time somebody asks, He’s got to get on the cross and die. No, He did that work two thousand years ago. That work is done. It’s a done deal. See, I think we need to do the same thing. We need to do that work now. Don’t carry that hurt for even two seconds. The “when” is now. If you’ve released it, when the person comes to you and says, “Hey, two weeks ago when I said that about you, I shouldn’t have. I’m going to ask you to forgive me.” What can you honestly say? “It’s already done. I already released you from that debt. It’s gone. You own me nothing.” “Whoa, when did you do that?” “I did it the second you hurt me. I haven’t a bitter feeling. I haven’t carried a grudge. I haven’t carried anything with me for the last two weeks because I’m clean before God and now we’re clean with each other.” Would that not be amazing? Why don’t we do that? We don’t do that because our flesh says, “I like this feeling of being right. I really, really, enjoy this.” Let me urge you. When [should you forgive]? Now.
To listen to this sermon from February 19, 2012 in its entirety or to read the full transcript, please visit the sermons page