I thoroughly enjoy working with the Young Adults at my church. They are a great bunch...all at various stages in their lives. With the Christmas season coming up...I started thinking about gifts that we have to purchase and how expensive they can be. Everything seems to add up and it is tough, especially for those who are just starting their adult lives, to buy everything we need or want to buy. This year, I am going to talk to them about a FREE gift that will be one of the best ones they've ever encountered...but this gift is not for someone else...it will be for them. It is the gift of Forgiveness.
Some people are under the misconception that forgiving someone means you are weak and if you forgive that means you are letting the other person "win." That is simply not so.
Someone once said, "To err is human...to blame it on someone else is more human." Sometimes we justify our lack of forgiveness because it is so easy...we tell ourselves the other person just doesn't deserve our forgiveness.
I'm sure you remember the story of the massacured Amish children of 2006? In the early October morning of 2006 in Nickel Mines, PA, 32 year old gunman, Charles Roberts, entered an Amish one-room schoolhouse. 25 students stood shocked and fearful as Mr. Roberts made the boys and teacher go outside, leaving only 10 girls locked inside with him. He shot them all, execution style, after tying their legs, then turned the gun on himself. Five survived, but were critically wounded. When asked why he would do such a thing by one of the little girls, he stated, "I am angry at God for taking my little daughter." The blood was barely dry in the schoolhouse when the Amish families of the victims came out with their news of forgiveness. In fact, the news of their forgiveness overshadowed the tragedy in more than 2,400 news stories worldwide. Fresh from the funeral of their daughters, the grieving Amish made up 1/2 of the 75 people who attended Charles Robert's funeral. Robert's wife and three children were most touched and surprised. In fact, the Amish forgiveness gesture went beyond the funeral...they set up a fund to support Roberts' grieving widow.
Forgiveness does not mean you are weak. Forgiveness is Dismissing a Debt. I am not saying this debt is not owed, but you forgive it none the less. Instead of being controlled, you are able to take control.
Luke 6:27 says, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." When you "let someone off the hook" by forgiving them, you are putting them on God's hook. God is a God of justice. Let Him seek vengence, not you.
Imagine you are an olymipc track runner preparing for the race. As you gain your momentum, ready to take off, you look, and fastened to your leg is a heavy, cumbersome ball and chain with a lock. Racing becomes impossible. You are no longer a contender...you are burdoned with weight. But then imagine, right before the gun shot sounds to announce the race is beginning, someone rushes along to you and hands you the key that will unlock the chain. That key to unlatch the baggage is FORGIVENESS. Instead of a heavy ball, it turns into a helium balloon and floats away.
In order to be Christlike, we must forgive, just as He forgave us. Forgiveness is not justified...just because you forgive someone does not mean you are saying that what they did to you is okay. Forgiveness is just your gift to yourself allowing you to release baggage you dont' need in your life.
So often, when we do forgive, we expect something back. "He should at least say he's sorry," you might think. When you forgive someone, and release the baggage, you also release your right to get even or to hear "I'm sorry." Romans 12:17 states, "Do not repay evil for evil." You release your right to dwell on the offense. Proverbs 17:9 explains it well: "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends."
Do you know what the difference between Grace and Mercy is? It is like two sides of a coin. Grace means you give someone a gift they don't deserve. Mercy is not giving them what they do deserve. Take a minute to read those two sentences again and let it sink in. Thank about it...we have been extended both grace and mercy through Christ's dying on the cross...and we don't deserve either of them...do we?
When the disciples asked Christ to teach them how to pray, it is interesting in Matthew 6:12 that Christ answers them with this model: "Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors."
I'll leave you with one last thought...Do you want to be forgiven in the same way you have forgiven others?