There was a situation that took place a while ago, and I thought that I had forgiven the people that hurt me...until our group met and discussed this chapter. Our leader encouraged me to listen to this sermon from a revival that her church held.
The speaker starts off by discussing a conversation between Peter and God in Matthew 18. Peter asks if seven times is enough to forgive someone, and God tells him that he should forgive people up to 70 times 7! Some things I learned about unforgiveness:
1. Unforgiveness produces bitterness in my heart and I need to be thanking God for each person and situation that he puts in my life. The most wicked sin was putting Jesus on the cross and God accomplished good through this so there has to be good being accomplished through our situations, too.
The speaker mentions the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." How often do you remember hearing or saying that as a child?? I think we all heard it, but we have to admit that it really isn't true! People say things that hurt us. There are also things not said that hurt us as well as things done to us and broken promises that all hurt.
2. There are four tests to know if you have forgiven a person:
- Is there anyone you resent? You get a knot in your stomach when you see the person, your fists clench when you hear the person, or it pains you when you hear others talk positively about that person?
- Is there anyone you blame for your feelings? You think, "If it weren't for ..."
- Is there anyone you don't like because they remind you of the person who hurt you?
- Do you have the same openness after the offense as you did before? Can you pray for this person and ask God to work in their life?
3. Ultimately, all bitterness is directed towards God! Bitterness not dealt with God's way will not only destroy us, it will hurt the people we love the most. Have you ever heard the saying "Hurt people, hurt people"? No man is the same after agony - they are either bitter or better. Which are you? Which am I?
There are so many things I have chosen in my life, and a few that I have to say that I haven't chosen. But, I believe that I can thank God for each of these situations, and the best part is when you trust God more after what you have gone through.
How about the saying, "Time heals all wounds"? Time may lessen the intensity of emotion, but until we deal with it correctly it will always be there affecting all of our relationships.
There is a deeper level of bitterness...that's indifference (where you just don't care). Forgiveness is not an emotion, it's a choice of your will. We can't forget, but God has allowed us to live as though we forgot. Refusal to forgive is sin against God.
4. Our choice:
- Acknowledge that your unforgiveness is sin
- Allow the past to stand as history (you can't change it)
- Change your response to the past
- Cancel the penalty and price ("I'll forgive, but I won't forget" is not forgiveness.)
- Choose to demonstrate love and forgiveness (not just refuse to hate)