Written by cycleguy on September 14th, 2014

So…I preached on Sunday about forgiveness from Matthew 18. I told all about it here.

When I was done a lady who has attended three of the past four Sundays (and wants to become part of OVCF) came up afterwards and handed me a sheet of paper with a question. It’s a good thing I’m not one of those pastors who doesn’t allow for questions to be raised about my sermons. 🙂

But this question takes it beyond the sermon. I told her I would need to think about it and get back to her. So I thought I would approach you guys for your thoughts and opinions just to see what others think. I plan to spend some time really thinking and praying through my answer before I give it (unless, of course, you all come up with a better one).  😉

Here is her question:

Our lesson today is about forgiving others. What if you don’t forgive any who have brought harm? For example, how does a parent forgive someone who killed or raped their child?

So…what do you think? I’d sure like to hear some of your thoughts. Oh…by the way…how about praying for me as I formulate my answer to her?


29 Comments so far ↓

  1. the Old Adam says:

    We surely ought to forgive. We surely ought to do many things that are required from us by God.

    But so often we fail.

    I thank God that His forgiveness is not predicated on my ability to forgive…or to do any of the things that the perfect demand of the law requires.

  2. PeterB says:

    It’s not easy, but the worst kind of offenders are exactly what Jesus was talking about. The person in Matthew was forgiven a huge amount he could never repay. With Jesus’ help I believe we can forgive and love even those who do terrible harm. I’ve heard multiple stories about how this kind of love can actually transform people. (i.e. Holocost survivors forgiving the guards and later forming friendships with them and seeing them come to Jesus, etc.) One of the most Jesus-like things we can do is forgive others, even the ‘worst’ among us. Oddly enough, God often chooses these folks to lead the church. No matter what it is, if we hold onto a grudge, it only hurts us. Again, it may be the hardest thing you ever do…

    • cycleguy says:

      Great way to put it Peter! It never ceases to amaze me (and it shouldn’t) how God takes the most unlovely people and uses them to accomplish His purpose. Using your word, i believe Paul said he was the worst (chief) of sinners. Thanks for the comment.

  3. If we are to imitate God, then I think we have to imitate his forgiveness. I think we have to begin that process now. Immediately.

  4. Daniel says:

    The standard preacher answer has to be from the point of view of God forgiving us for our direct and consistent rebellion against him. If he can do that, then we need to … blah, blah, blah. But you know as well as I do that this kind of pat answer will not win you any converts and will likely do more harm than good for some folks. Forgiveness in this kind of egregious act is something that takes time and is likely best helped with the passage and numbing effects of time. Small steps might be best.

    • cycleguy says:

      I believe you have hit on something Daniel. Immediate forgiveness, and the good feelings which accompany it, is often seen with time. I know someone who is into their 40s and is just now seeing forgiveness for family abuses. Small steps.

  5. Andy says:

    Bill- I’m Back! I think Matt 6:15 leaves little room for interpretation: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.KJV

    This is a very tough topic, and one I have struggle with. Have all of us struggle with holding malice or inequity in our hearts? Yes. Are all of those hurts completely forgiven by each of us? I would say no. It takes time and prayer, and even then I think you will find weak moments where you find yourself lost in thought about the event even after you have forgiven that individual. The Lord knows our struggles. I believe we need to make an effort in forgiveness, like praying for the person that has hurt us. Asking for forgiveness from God for what we feel. Asking for God to take the malice from our hearts.

    • cycleguy says:

      Welcome back Andy! Good to hear from you again. Was really good to share in Katie’s baptism yesterday as well. God is going to use beyond her wildest imagination as she soon moves into being a teenager and beyond. It is a tough topic. Not one with an easy answer for sure. I am glad He knows my struggles, loves me in spite of them, and continues to do so even in moments of my weakness. Praying for that person is so important. Thanks. And welcome back. 🙂

  6. the Old Adam says:

    God does NOT forgive us as we forgive others.

    If He did…NONE of us would get to Heaven.

    We need to do a bit of theology here friends.

    The Bible also says (Jesus says), “You must be perfect as your father in Heaven is perfect.”

    There’s another one that will exclude 100% of the human race.

    These are LAW verses. Designed to expose us and our sinfulness and drive us back to Christ for forgiveness.

    I would tell that woman, “I know you aren’t up to the task. Jesus knows that you are not up to the task. But you are forgiven for His sake.”

    That’s the gospel.

  7. Jeff says:

    I don’t know how God looks at it. I just know how I look at it. Forgiveness isn’t a matter of doing something for the perpetrator. It is a matter of doing something for yourself.
    It is a matter of deciding you don’t want thoughts of hate or revenge to control your thinking. There isn’t usually any way to correct the harm so quit dwelling on it.
    Nothing wrong with demanding justice. And loving your enemies makes 0 sense. In the case of radical Muslims I say killing them all is justice.
    So do yourself a favor and quit worrying about revenge or being consumed by hate.
    The Amish do it very well and do it immediately and free themselves to have a clear mind about things they can do something about.

    • cycleguy says:

      You are right Jeff. It is doing something for us. I don’t want to be one who goes through life with hatred and bitterness stacking up and controlling my thoughts. What an ugly way to live. i would agree with you on one account: loving my enemies makes no sense. but Jesus did ask me to pray for them. Thanks for weighing in.

  8. Dan Erickson says:

    That’s a tough one indeed, but the bottom line is even on that scenario, or maybe especially in that case, not forgiving will eat the person up inside, creating a never-ending anger. It’s no way to live. Forgiveness work is hard work. It’s not a one-time thing.

  9. Zee says:

    On Saturday, I told Sam “Thank God, I am not a pastor.” Your situation is one of those where I would be completely lost for words (I tried thinking about it once and gave up… but Dekker’s “Priest’s Graveyard” is talking about that…)

    The “good and right answer” is that it is not in our strength to forgive, but it is God who provides strength… but that doesn’t really help when someone you love has been hurt… So, I am not a helper here.

    • cycleguy says:

      yeah. Regardless of what some may think, it is harder than it looks. 🙂 Your good and right answer is correct Zee but like you said, it doesn’t help much at the time.

  10. TC Avey says:

    As I read that question I thought of Corrie Ten Boom who was asked by a former Nazi for forgiveness for what had been done to her and her family.

    She had so many reasons to not forgive. So much pain she could have held onto.
    I think I remember reading her words that she didn’t want to forgive, that she didn’t know how to forgive. But she turned to Christ and HE helped her to forgive what she couldn’t humanly do on her own.
    It was HIS love in her that enabled her to do it.
    I think sometimes we don’t trust God enough. It’s HIS power in us that enables us to do things, too often we put too much value on our own abilities (or the lack of our abilities) and forget that the LIVING GOD is in us!
    Through Christ all things are possible.
    Though sometimes it takes repeatedly going to God and asking for help.
    She may not be able to forgive one time and let it go. Sometimes it takes numerous times before we are truly freed from the pain such an event would cause.

    God doesn’t always deliver us immediately. Sometimes it’s a process. We simply must trust Him, that His words are true.

    It’s as much about our own growth as it is about the other persons.

    God’s more interested in who we are becoming than in changing our circumstances immediately. He’s not a genie. He’s GO!

    Prayed for you Bill and I trust God will bring HIS answer to her heart. All in due time.

    • cycleguy says:

      that is a great example TC using Corrie ten Boom. I had forgotten her example of God loving that Nazi guard through her. You are also right in that it isn’t always immediately. Thanks so much for your prayers. It will take His wisdom to answer the question.

  11. Betty Draper says:

    I ditto all the scriptures that were shared. There is a good book on forgiveness I just read by Mary Demuth, titles, the walls around your heart. I am actually going to give a couple out at the Ladies Retreat I am speaking at in Oct. My second session is: A Wise Heart is a Forgiving Heart.

    Forgiveness is the process of trusting the Lord to bring forgiveness to fullness in our hearts. For me it was through God forgiving me that helped me forgive others especially my Dad. To speak to the sins of my father like Christ spoke to those who hung Him on the cross, Father forgive them, they know now what they do, I had to put myself in the group of “them” who needed forgiveness. Same group my Dad was in. No, I never did the same things my Dad did but it was my sin too that nailed Jesus to the cross. When I began the process of forgiving my Dad I found out I had to also forgive my mother for keeping us in the unhealthy home.

    To not even begin the process of forgiveness will keep one enslaved to the one who hurt them. I know people who are enslaved to someone who is dead in the grave because they won’t forgive them. They will even use the phrase, I will go to my grave before I forgive them. Angry and bitter people are not nice to be around. They hurt as many people with their un-forgiveness as they one they won’t forgive.

    Know God will give you wisdom Bill as you answer this young women.

    • cycleguy says:

      i am familiar with Mary, Betty. She wrote one called Not Marked which I have given away to several women. Absolutely fantastic book. She has much wisdom to give. On your comment: you are right about being enslaved.

  12. David says:

    I believe they will have to trust God to love them through their pain. Where else can we go?

    I want to be cautious and not be so flippant as to say they have to forgive the perpetrator – I can’t even imagine how I would react if it happened to someone in my own family. But forgiveness will help begin the healing process and like others above have said it may require many “forgives” before they are set free.

    Forgiveness ultimately sets the forgiver free.

    • cycleguy says:

      Well said David. I appreciate your sensitivity to flippancy as well. I stated yesterday in the sermon what you finished with. I also added failure to forgive and hold a grudge makes you that person’s slave.

  13. the Old Adam says:

    Romans 7

    “What I ought do, I do not. And what I should not do, I do.”

    “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

  14. Kari Scare says:

    Agree with much of what is already said. I would add that forgiveness often means saying “I forgive you” without feeling it for a very long time. Feelings eventually follow. Just read in my devotion this morning that obedience usually must come before understanding, and that seems to fit here too. But forgiveness is actually like love… both are choices and both are extended undeservedly much of the time.

  15. the Old Adam says:

    If we make ourselves and ‘what we do’..or ‘what we do not do’, the focus of our Christian life…we will make matters WORSE.

    St. Paul reminds us of this fact when he says that, “when the law came in, sin increased.”

    The law (what we do, or should do) is there to expose us and our great need of a Savior.

    And then the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed into that great need.

    And that’s the gospel.

    This is a super important concept to avoid Christian holiness ladder-climbing and spiritual navel gazing.

  16. Don’t really have much to add, but I wanted to see what others had written. Forgiveness is a matter of faith as much as anything else. I believe sometimes the enemy beats us up saying, “you haven’t really forgiven them. You’re still holding it against them.” But you made the choice to give to God and choose forgiveness. You have to have faith that it’s done at that point and trust Him with it. I’ve never experienced something as horrific as that, but I have had people denigrate me and my character, try to slander and dishonor. It’s a tough thing (especially when they don’t go away and are still with you), but in Him, we can forgive. It’s an act of the will and faith. I guess I added more than I thought I would. 🙂 Blessings to you, Bill!