The Power Of Prayer Part 3: Forgiveness
On Sunday 15th October at our morning service, we continued our series The Power Of Prayer with the topic 'Forgiveness'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to this, click here.
I expect we can all think of times when we have hurt someone through something that we have said or done. And I’m sure that we can also recall times when people have wronged us. But how often when we know we have hurt someone do we seek them out and say that we are sorry and ask for forgiveness. And how often when offered an apology do we outwardly ‘Make the right noises – and forgive them but inwardly continue to bear a grudge against them. Un-forgiveness causes rifts and damages our relationships with other people and between us and God.
Harbouring un-forgiveness imprisons us. Forgiveness sets us free.
Jesus knew how important forgiveness was when he taught his disciples how to pray. You can read this in Matthew Chapter 6 verses 9 to 13 by clicking here.
Right in the middle of the prayer – Jesus teaches his disciples to ask God to:
12 forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
He makes it even clearer to the disciples that forgiveness is very important in the next 2 verses 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
This is Jesus teaching his disciples - his followers whilst he is still on earth. Therefore we need to view these verses, especially verses 14 and 15 in the context of the time. For us today our forgiveness is not conditional like it was for the disciples.
For us the price of our sins (all the stuff what we have done and will do that hurts other people, ourselves and God) has been paid for by Jesus who took our sins, upon Himself on the cross and died in our place, so that we could have a relationship with God.
Through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been forgiven, unconditionally.
If we really do accept that Jesus has paid the price for our sin and we choose to follow Him, we are free.
I was driving somewhere in the car recently and a song came onto the radio and one of the lines sung was this:
“Now that you’ve found love, what you gonna do with it?”
“Now that you’ve found love, what you gonna do with it?”
And it struck me that if I changed the word love for the word forgiveness then this was a challenge to me and maybe to you:
“Now that you’ve found forgiveness, what are you going to do with it?
It is because we have been forgiven by God that we should forgive others.
But just because we have received forgiveness for our sins this doesn’t mean that we can sin whenever we like! Our sins matter! They matter a great deal!
We, like the disciples, should still be asking God for forgiveness when we muck up.
We should also be asking other people to forgive us when we have wronged them.
And we should be forgiving people who have hurt us.
How we behave towards other people has the power to bring people closer to God through our example or to push them away. Not only that but: Harbouring un-forgiveness imprisons us. Forgiveness sets us free.
Paul, a writer and encourager of an early church in Ephesus has some advice on forgiveness. He says this:
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4 verse 32.)
This sounds like great advice but for some of us the idea of forgiving someone seems impossible. Maybe we’ve been betrayed or abandoned by someone who we thought loved us. Maybe we’ve been mentally, physically or emotionally abused by someone we trusted. We do not feel that we can forgive - we have been hurt too deeply. Or perhaps we are stuck in the cycle of punishing ourselves for something that we’ve done and cannot forgive ourselves for.
But God helps us to forgive others when we ask Him. A lady called Corrie Ten Boom found this out for herself. You can listen to her story by clicking here.
God took Corrie’s willingness to forgive and he provided the power. When she cried out in her heart “Help!” that is exactly what God did.
Jesus knows how difficult it can be to forgive. He was betrayed, deserted and tortured and yet he found the strength hanging on the cross to say “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”
Forgiving someone is difficult! But we must do it because harbouring un-forgiveness imprisons us. Forgiveness sets us free.
I don’t know what you are carrying around in your black sack of guilt, pain and un-forgiveness, like the lady in our drama. Or for how long you have been carrying it around but God didn’t create us to carry that stuff. God created us to be free.
Are you ready to give your black sack to God?
Are you willing to begin to forgive and to be forgiven?
If you are not ready to forgive someone then maybe for you the first step is asking God to help you want to forgive them.
If there is someone you do need to forgive, you need to ask God how best to do this.
But one thing I would like to make clear is that us needing to forgive is not dependent on the person who has wronged us admitting that they have hurt us. For some of us the person who has been the cause of our hurt may not know or believe that they have done anything wrong or may not be around anymore.
Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself as you look around you and you see the results of the hurt that you have inflicted on other people or you feel that in your life deep down you are unworthy of God’s forgiveness. But we need to accept God’s forgiveness and be set free just like the lady in the drama.
Let’s go back to the words of Paul to the Ephesians:
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you”
We’ve been forgiven therefore we must forgive.
Because harbouring un-forgiveness imprisons us. Forgiveness sets us free.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. Why is forgiving someone so difficult?
2. What does harbouring un-forgiveness do to our relationships with other people?
3. Are you harbouring un-forgiveness towards someone? If so, what are you going to do about it?
4. How do you deal with people who hurt you? In light of what you have read in this blog is there anything that you would change about your approach?
5. If you have never accepted that God loves you and that he wants to set you free from all the guilt, pain and un-forgiveness that you are carrying what is stopping you?
6. What does harbouring un-forgiveness do our relationship with God?
7. How does forgiving someone and/or being forgiven by someone set us free?