Hope and Forgiveness
For the next three Sunday’s we are going to focus on the importance forgiveness in our lives and how by embracing forgiveness we can open the door of spiritual and emotional healing. We can’t live out our discipleship fully if we weighted down with the baggage of hurt and resentment. The truth is that all of have been there, stuck in the emotional and spiritual quagmire of not letting go. Perhaps some of us are still there.
Forgiveness is a huge stumbling block for so many, but we all are called upon to forgive in our lives. Some things are minor and easy to forgive…other things are so egregious, that it is only through God’s grace and strength that we are able to forgive. If we choose to live with forgiveness, it can impact us on every level of our lives. If are lives seem stuck and we live as if there is no hope, the patch of forgiveness is essential if we are move forward in body, soul, and mind.
Forgiveness, in short, is about the restoration of hope. It restores our hope in God, in others, and in ourselves.
As we begin this short 3-week sermon series on forgiveness let’s begin with a baseline on what forgiveness “is” and “is not.”
- Forgiveness is not easy. If I am honest and truthful with myself I know that there will be situations that I would find it impossible to forgive on my own part. For instance, if anyone should deliberately harm my family. Yet we are called to forgive.
Let me share with you a try tragedy in Enneskillian, Northern Ireland. On 8 November 1987 a bomb planted by the Provisional IRA exploded during Enniskillen’s Remembrance Day parade, injuring Wilson and fatally injuring his daughter Marie, a nurse.
The bomb was planted in a nearby building and timed to go off at 10:43 am, just before the ceremony was due to start. In an emotional television interview Wilson gave to the BBC only hours after the bombing brought him to national and international prominence as he described his last conversation with his dying daughter as they both lay buried in rubble. Her last words were “Daddy I love you”.
Wilson’s response to the bombing, “I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge”, was reported worldwide, becoming among the most-remembered quotations from the Troubles. Whereas IRA attacks in Northern Ireland often resulted in reprisals by loyalists, Wilson’s calls for forgiveness and reconciliation came to be called the Spirit of Enniskillen.
As a peace campaigner, Wilson held many meetings with members of Sinn Féin. He also met once with representatives of the Provisional IRA. Wilson sought to understand the reasons for the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen. He also held talks with loyalist paramilitaries in an attempt to persuade them to abandon violence. Through his act of forgiveness, he planted a seed of peace, though fragile, lives today in Northern Ireland.
Such power to forgive never comes from our own ability and will, but from the power of the Holy Spirit. When have you found it hard to forgive someone who has hurt you?
- 2. God commands us to forgive. It’s not optional. He is our example and if He can ask His Heavenly Father to forgive those who nailed Him to a cross, we can learn to forgive with His help. There is absolutely nothing that is impossible to forgive with God’s help. With really traumatic events, we must work through pain and the grief as well. We may also have a new normal that must be adapted to if life changes are a consequence to what’s happened. Forgiving is not sweeping something under the rug and pretending it didn’t happen. That will only come back to haunt you later.
- Forgiveness, does not mean you are excusing, or condoning bad behavior.
- Forgiveness is for you. It’s not for the person that wronged you. It is to set you free. It is so you are not held prisoner paying the price for someone else’s wrong doing.
Forgiving is for you and you alone. Often the person who has hurt you, feels nothing…no shame, guilt or remorse. The wrong doer, may even have forgotten the event, but we can stay trapped in bitterness, anger and resentment for years. It can affect our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical well-being, while the other person is absolutely oblivious to our pain. Unforgiveness rarely harms the other person. Usually, we are the only victim of our unforgiveness.
- Forgiveness is between you and God. You do not have to go to the other person. Forgiveness is you handing over the wrongdoing and the person who did it and saying “Lord, I give this to you so you can deal with it. It is between you and them now, so I can be free.”
- Forgiveness does not mean that you “forget” the wrong that was done to you. Forgiveness is like cleaning out a wound. If you don’t clean out a wound, it festers, hurts and it doesn’t heal properly. Once it is cleaned out, it can heal. Once healed, you will always have the scar but it hurt anymore…scars can be a reminder of God’s healing.
- Forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation. Forgiveness and trust are two different things. Some people are unrepentant. They may not feel like they have done anything wrong.
Perhaps, they may be sorry for the moment, but you know that the bad behavior will continue for whatever reason. God does not call us to be in abusive relationships. He does not call us to be doormats, or to remain in relationships that are toxic or unhealthy.
We are allowed as Christians to set appropriate boundaries for ourselves to protect ourselves and our families. To have boundaries that include distancing yourself from someone, does not mean that we hate that person, or that we have not forgiven them, we should always pray for that person though.
So, how do we learn to forgive and move to a place of hope? First, we need pray about it.
Here is a prayer for those who are struggling to forgive…
Dear Heavenly Father,
I come to you and ask for your help. I know that I am to forgive others as you have forgiven me, but I find it so hard to do Lord. My mind and heart are full of anger for the things that have been said and done. At times it seems as though the ones that inflict pain and wounds are unrepentant…that they escape judgment. I am angry for what they have taken from me and for the pain they have caused me.
Lord, please help me to see with your eyes. Help me to remember that forgiveness is for me and not for them. Help me to remember that my forgiveness does not depend on them apologizing or repenting…help me to remember that forgiveness is between me and you. Lord, I am releasing my pain and my hurt and my anger to you and I am asking for your help in forgiving them so I can be set free.
I want to forgive and leave this heavy weight at your feet so I can be set free. Lord, their sin and their wrong doing, I leave in your hands for You to deal with it. I no longer want to be held hostage in a prison of anger and bitterness and sadness for what has been done by someone else. I no longer want to serve the sentence for what someone else has done wrong.
Lord, release me from this bondage and free my heart. I want to forgive Lord, as you have forgiven me. You died not only to set me free from my sins, but to set me free from all the things that hold me hostage and keep me from being who you want me to be. Help me to live in the peace and freedom that you offer.
Lord, from this day forward, I want to be healed from all these negative feelings. Thank you Lord, for helping me…what I can’t do..what I don’t have the strength to do on my own power, I know I am able to do through Jesus.
Thank you Lord. for helping me to move forward today. Help my mind turn to you when the old feelings and thoughts start to enter my mind. Bind the enemy so he can’t bring up the past. Clean the wound out of my heart Lord so it can finally heal and so it can be at peace. Thank you Lord. In the name of Jesus I ask all of these things.
Scripture: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”.