Sermon on Forgiveness
A little boy said he had learned a lot about God. He used to pray every night for a bicycle but then realised that God doesn’t work that way so he just stole one and is praying for forgiveness.
The topic today is forgiveness.It is definitely one of those topics that is easier said than done.
It is a topic that many people have trouble with. It is a topic that is addressed by every philosophy and religion. It is the most frequent piece of advice in the bible and very prevalent in the Koran and every other religious book.
It todays scripture Peter asks Jesus about the number of times a person should forgive. In Rabbinic circles 4 times was considered good. Peter likely thought he would get praise for increasing it to seven but Jesus says it should be seventy times seven.
The rest of the passage talks about a person who, although he got forgiveness, chose not to forgive and ends up in prison. The story is factual to an extent as debtors prison was a real place but the story has more relevance for us as an example of what happens if we don’t forgive others. We end up in a prison of revenge and hatred.
The former Moderator of the United Church, Sang Chu Lee, tells of the time he was taken prisoner in Manchuria. Everyday there were beatings and questioning and kicking and spitting. After liberation Sang Chu saw his captor in a field. His immediate response was to pick up a stone but he knew others would follow and likely kill the captor. He said he “I thought to myself, I am a Christian. I am not able to kill this man and beside this is our day of liberation, killing is not the right thing to do”. He said that that was the day he really got out of prison.
Retaliation and revenge is often the result of non-forgiveness. It puts you in debt both financially and emotionally. Personally you may spend thousands of dollars trying to get even. Many costly lawsuits are based on a lack of forgiveness and the people involved lose huge amounts of money and time. Internationally non-forgiveness is promoted as a way of maintaining warfare. Many countries have been ruined physically and financially by promoting a grudge. Even this Covid 19 has been the source of blame on certain countries and the anger toward them can be easily manipulated.
Retaliation usually leads to escalation. Instead of finding a way to get along. We look for better ways to hurt each other.
Forgiveness is necessaryfor living an abundant life but it is difficult to do. I am often questioned about the process and some of the more difficult scenarios.
A common question is: Does God forgive all people? Regardless of your interpretation of “God” the answer is yes. God is love and love includes forgiveness. It may be beyond our capacity to understand that level of forgiveness but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
Another question is about the so called “unforgivable sin”. It is only unforgivable because the person has refused to accept it. It is like turning your back on another person, they can’t forgive you because you won’t let them.
In the Lord’s Prayer it says “And forgive us as we forgive others” We can only understand forgiveness to the extent that we can give it. If we are the sort of person that doesn’t know how to forgive then we are unable to accept forgiveness from someone else.
Forgiveness needs to become a way of life. When Jesus says seventy times seven he meant always. On the cross he forgavepeople who had no idea they needed forgiveness and they certainly did not ask for it.
The most common question is about the need to forgive and forget. You may not be able to forget the incident as it may have changed your life but you need to forget the anger and the grudge it has created.
The biggest beneficiary of forgiveness is yourself. I recall a story of a woman who made herself sick to repay a man who had broken up with her in high school. She went to the hospital and then remained in a sick bed for 45 years. She said “someday he will regret what he has done to me” I am sure that the man moved on, got married, had children or whatever. The woman had put herself in a prison and her life had been wasted.
Forgiving others may give them a fresh start
Forgiving others does give us a fresh start.
Forgiveness doesn’t change the past but it does change the future
God, the human race so easily destroys the world that you have made, yet you give us new chances. We so often let anger and hatred rule our decisions yet you remind us that that is not the best way. We need help to forgive and to know that we are forgiven. We need faith to understand that forgiveness is the greatest route to a better life. Be with us as we mend the rifts between us and others of different beliefs, political persuasions, race, social levels, lifestyles and creeds. Help us to understand differences.
We pray now for people who are close to us, we pray for others who especially need pray at this time.
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation. but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever Amen
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Hymn – Praise to the Lord
Scripture Matthew 18: 21-30
Hymn Love Divine 333
Go Now In Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen
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