Sunday, August 7, 2011

Forgive One Another

I want to share with you part of Compassion president Wes Stafford's message on forgiveness. What follows is an excerpt of what he said. You can watch his whole message on the Compassion Blog or I have posted the video at the end. Being a word person, and a note-taker type in class, I like to have things written out, so here are my notes of the highlight of his message.

Forgive One Another, by Wes Stafford
Forgive, as you have been forgiven.....

Satan's strategy is divide and conquer. He wants to break God's heart, and at the time of creation he wondered, what does God care about the most.... light from dark, land from water, plants from animals....? Finally on day six he gets it! God didn't just speak man into existence, He fashioned him with His own hands, in His own image, and breathed life into man with His own breath. So the devil realized if he wants to break God's heart he attacks what God loves most, he attacks people. He knows the best time to attack people is when they are small and vulnerable, so he is extremely cruel to children.

He attacks us to separate us from God. He attacks us to separate us from one another. Forgiveness is at the heart of the kingdom of God. It is at the very core of the Gospel message. Sin is all about separation, from God, and from one another. Forgiveness is all about restoration bringing us back together. 

The first chance Satan had to separate was in the garden. He separated Adam from Eve, and separated them from God. One of the most important things as Jesus was teaching, preaching, leading and discipling, was teaching about forgiveness. In the Lord's prayer,"This is how you are supposed to pray. Forgive us as we forgive others." His words on the cross, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing."

The attack continues today, with every generation he renews his divide and conquer strategy. He separates husbands from wives, parents from children, brothers and sisters, friend from friend, co-workers, and churches. All of us are vulnerable, all of us are susceptible to attack.

We all know about the need to be forgiven and the need to forgive, but what does forgiveness mean? 
Forgiveness doesn't mean that what happened to you isn't important or that it doesn't matter.
Forgiveness doesn't mean that there shouldn't be consequences for the hurt done to one another.
Forgiveness doesn't always mean that you have to reconcile with the person who hurt you, but the ideal forgiveness that Jesus was calling for is restoration of relationship. Jesus said, "If your brother has hurt you, go to your brother, and if he will hear you, you will have regained your brother." Mt. 5:23
Forgiveness doesn't mean that you are able to forget. We say "forgive and forget" so glibly. If you have been deeply hurt you can't forget. But you will never forget what you willfully will not forgive. 
Forgiveness also doesn't mean that it won't happen again. Jesus said forgive seventy time seven.

Here is what forgiveness means:
Forgiveness means that you unclench your fist, that you give up your right and your desire for revenge.
Forgiveness is a choice, but the cost of unforgiveness is great. you can not expect to live fully at peace with God or to experience His true blessing in your life, if you refuse to forgive those who sin against you.
Forgiveness is hard. Sometimes it's harder than the original pain of what you are needing to forgive. It is not humanly possible without God's grace coming through you, but it is possible.  No matter what has been done to you, no matter what has been done against you, it is possible to forgive. 

We have to forgive God's way. Forgive as you have been forgiven. How were we forgiven? God could have easily snapped His fingers and said, "You're all forgiven," but He chose to come into our pain. Emmanuel, God with us, was by design, He came in to experience all of our pain, all of our sorrow, all of our temptation. He never forgives anything he didn't first taste, this incredible Lord of ours. 

If we we're to forgive, we actually have to have the courage to enter in to the pain of the person who hurt us, because it is usually the wounded who hurt other people. It is a sin not to forgive. It is not an option, it's not a choice  "If you will not forgive other people, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your failings."

Compassion means "to suffer with." So if we are going to forgive we need to enter in to the hurt of the one who has hurt us, and we need to know them, and to understand them, we ultimately need to value them and eventually love them enough to do this forgiveness work, even if it is seventy time seven. 

When we harbor resentment and anger, and we are unwilling to forgive, it's like saying, "God, I put my life on your altar, but not all of it. I reserve the right for this anger, I reserve the right for this resentment. You can have everything but that." You will never experience the joy available to you until you put it all, all the hurt, everything on the altar and forgive.


  1. Lisa,

    This is a great post on the importance of forgiveness. I think another step in the process is when Jesus says pray for your enemies. After Jesus asks the Father to forgive them at the crucifixion, in Acts chapter 2 Peter preaches to a crowd of men, who he specifically says were the ones who crucified the Christ, and three thousand of the them believe and were baptized.

    That's the power of forgiveness. I wrote a post talking about the idea more in depth here: How Do You Forgive? if you're interested.

    God Bless!

  2. Lisa, I need all I can read on the topic of forgiveness, and this post is particularly compelling. This part really struck me: "Compassion means "to suffer with." So if we are going to forgive we need to enter in to the hurt of the one who has hurt us, and we need to know them, and to understand them..." I admit, I have never considered that element of forgiveness before.