QRC Forgiveness

November 18, 2012

He just kept right on smiling. It didn’t matter what they
did or what they said he just kept right on smiling. They were American army
officers and he was their Korean house boy, and for whatever reason they gave
him a hard time about everything, he wasn’t fast enough, he wasn’t polite
enough, he wasn’t good enough, but he just kept right on smiling. They had
rented a house in Seoul and he was the servant, he cleaned, he cooked and he
served and no matter how hard he tried he seemed to fail in their eyes. They
ridiculed him and they humiliated him in front of their guests and he just kept
on smiling. The more he smiled the more they seemed to be determined to break
him and their humiliation of him got even worse if that was possible, but he
just kept right on smiling.
One day a visitor came to the house, it was another American
officer but he was cut from a different piece of cloth and he was horrified by
the way his fellow officers were treating their house boy but he was also
fascinated by the boys response, no anger, no tension, apparently no ill
feelings and so after a while he got the boy aside to find out what his secret
was. “Why is it that no matter what the men say you just smile back?” he asked.
“What is you secret?” The boy didn’t hesitate at all before responding “My
secret is that every day, just before I serve them their dinner, I spit in
their soup.”
Not bad, but not forgiveness. There are people here today
who just keep right on smiling. They have been hurt by someone, and yet they
don’t appear to let it bother them. A true Christian, it would appear that they
have the Lord’s Prayer down pat where it says Matthew 6:12 Forgive us our sins, just as we have
forgiven those who have sinned against us.
At least that’s how they appear on the outside. But on the
inside they are spitting in that person’s soup, every day. And my friends that
is not forgiveness. It may make us feel better but it doesn’t bring healing.
This is week four of our QR Codes for your Life series.  QRC’s are those little square bar codes that
are popping up everywhere.  You see them
in newspapers, magazines, billboards, stores and restaurants.  And if you have the right app on your
smartphone, blackberry or iPhone you can scan the QRC and it will take you to a
website that will give you more information about that product or service.  We have a QRC on the back of our bulletin
which takes you to the Cornerstone Website. 
And while you are there you can find out information about the church,
what we believe, a little bit of our history, what services we offer, what’s
coming up and a video archive of our past services.  Pretty cool. 
When we introduced our series we talked about how great it
would be if as Christians we had QR Codes for those hard situations that pop up
in our lives .  Places that we can go in
the bible that will give us the answers we need.
So two weeks ago we looked at
what to do when we are tempted to do wrong, where we should look for that
answer and our QRC directed us to 1 Corinthians
10:13
The temptations in your life are no
different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow
the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will
show you a way out so that you can endure.
Last week we talked about
failure, when we feel like we just can’t go on, that our feet have been kicked
out from under us and we feel that we just can’t give anymore and we want to
quit.  And as a response to that we
looked at Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the
right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
But what happens when you’ve
been betrayed or hurt.  When someone you
love turns against you, or someone you hardly knows says or does something that
hurts you?  As Christ followers what are
we supposed to do when we have been abused or someone hurts our family?  What do we do when we get cut off in traffic
or the barista messes up our coffee order?  
Our QRC code this week takes us to the middle of the scripture that was
read earlier.  Colossians 3:13 Make allowance for each
other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave
you, so you must forgive others.
And in theory that sound easy,
but in life things aren’t always that easy. 
Colossians 3:13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone
who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
And Peter seemed to be trying to get a handle on the entire
forgiveness thing when he comes to Jesus in Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to him and asked,
“Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
I don’t think that Peter was talking about something
abstract, I think that as Jesus was teaching that Peter had been stewing.  Thinking about something someone had said
about him or did to him, perhaps more than once.  Maybe five time or six times and he was
getting tired of turning the other cheek. 
And to be truthful if this was more than a hypothetical situation and
Peter had already forgiven the person multiple times he was a better person
than most of us.
Under Jewish teaching Peter would have learned that it was
good to forgive someone three times.  
One Rabbi had written “He who begs forgiveness from his neighbour must not
do so more than three times.”  While
another taught “If a man commits an offence once, they forgive him; if he commits an
offence a second time, they forgive him; if he commits an offence a third time,
they forgive him; the fourth time they do not forgive.”
Would you be willing to forgive three times?  The correct answer shouldn’t be “It
depends”. 
And so Peter probably thought he was being gracious, he
takes the teachings of the Rabbis, multiplies it by two, adds one for good measure,
and offers it up as enough.
 But he wasn’t ready
for Jesus’ answer Matthew
18:22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!  Seventy times seven!  That’s crazy talk, why that is, naught,
naught, carry the four, three is seven, seven is four and wow, that’s almost
500 times.   How can you forgive someone
490 times for doing you wrong? You couldn’t live that long. Maybe that is the
answer.
Jesus must have seen the look
of unbelief on Peter’s face because he says: Matthew 18:23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven
can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with
servants who had borrowed money from him. 
And then he tells this story to illustrate the forgiveness
that is so essential to belonging to God’s Kingdom. He tells us that the
Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who was doing up his accounts and discovered
that one fellow owed him millions of dollars. 
Actually the original text says ten thousand talents. Not a figure drawn
out of the air, instead it represented the largest amount of money in Greek
thinking. The talent was the largest denomination of currency, much like our
one hundred dollar bill, and ten thousand was the largest number in Greek
figuring, anything above that figure was merely abstract.
And so this one man owed the largest amount possible that Christ’s
audience could conceive. When the man couldn’t pay his debt, the King decreed
that the debtor and his family should be sold into slavery to at least get back
a partial return on his debt. The debtor began to beg his master to relent and
the master did.  He granted the man a
pardon, cancelled his debt and set him free.
As you can well imagine the man was over the moon. And it would
be a great story if that is where the story ended,  but it didn’t. 
As the man was walking home he ran across a man who owed him a few
thousand dollars, again the original says one hundred denarii, which means nothing
to us but was trifling sum in comparison to what he had been forgiven.
He seemed to have forgotten the forgiveness shown him and
immediately demands payment and when the man can’t pay he has him thrown into
prison. When the king heard about this he was not visible impressed, called the
man back and said Matthew 18:32-33 Then the king called in the man
he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt
because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant,
just as I had mercy on you?’
And then the rich man had the servant thrown into prison
where he was tortured until he could pay, which was obviously never. Jesus sums
up the story by saying, Matthew 18:35 “That’s what
my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and
sisters from your heart.”
It is impossible to translate the amount of money that was
owed by the two men and Jesus never meant for it to be a precise amount it was
the difference that was important, one was too large to be imagined the other
was too small to be bothered with. The smaller debt was approximately
1/600,000th the size of the larger debt.   That would be the Canadian Government being
forgiven its entire national debt and then coming after a man because he owed a
hundred bucks on his income tax. 
The lesson being that no matter what it is that you have to
forgive it doesn’t compare with what God forgave you for. There is a line in
the Lord’s Prayer which tells us the urgency with which we need to
forgive.  Matthew 6:12 Forgive us our sins, as we have
forgiven those who sin against us.  You
understand what you are praying when you say that, right? 
So instead of looking at what forgiveness is this morning I
want to take a few minutes looking at what forgiveness isn’t, because when I
talk to people about forgiveness, and you’d be surprised how often that subject
comes up in my office, these are usually the objections I hear.  They are not adverse to forgiveness but they
often have reasons why they can’t or actually won’t forgive.
Forgiveness Isn’t Simply a
Matter of Overlooking A Wrong.
How many times have we said or heard words like, “Oh that’s all
right” or “Forget it I didn’t pay any attention to it.” often we
try to overlook small wrongs like when someone says something that hurts us, or
when we are slighted about something. Somebody steps in front of us, or doesn’t
say “thank you”, little things that maybe shouldn’t hurt but do, and
if they hurt they need to be forgiven not overlooked. 
As Christians we think that we are super spiritual when we overlook
those little wrongs. But when we make a blanket statement like “Don’t
worry about it”, or “It wasn’t anything” we aren’t forgiving we
are covering. When we overlook wrongs we aren’t resolving them we are hiding
them and in doing so we are actively preventing our healing, and the healing of
relationships. Maybe you’ve been overlooking somebodies treatment of you, the
things your spouse says or doesn’t say, the way your children treat you, the
fact that the Pastor hasn’t recognised you for the things you’ve done. You’ve
told them and yourself that it doesn’t matter, but it does because overlooking
isn’t forgiving.
Forgiveness Isn’t
a Matter of Being Asked.
Often people will say “But they haven’t asked for
my forgiveness.”  Somehow we have come to
the mistaken conclusion that forgiveness is something we bestow upon someone
like the Queen bestows a Knighthood. 
That we wait until they come grovelling asking for forgiveness. But
nowhere in the bible does it say that people have to ask us to forgive them
before we do.  Not there.
Forgiveness is not a reward to be earned it is a gift to be
given.
Understand by forgiving someone you aren’t doing it for
their benefit you are doing it for your own benefit.  What happens when we don’t forgive
someone?  We are consumed with anger and
bitterness.  We spend time plotting to
get back at that person, replaying the incident over and over again in our
minds and they are going blissfully along with life.
Author Isabelle Holland reminds us 
“As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a
rent-free space in your mind.”
You understand don’t you that 90 % of those who you need to
forgive either don’t know they need to be forgiven or don’t care? And that goes
back to the fact that 73% of statistics are made up.  You cannot allow your emotions to be held
hostage by others.  Just let it go.
Forgiveness Isn’t
a Matter of Feeling 
Sometimes when I
talk to people they imply that they have not yet come to a place emotionally
where they are ready to forgive.  “I’m
just not ready yet.”  You need to
understand that forgiveness is an action not an emotion.  It is something we do not something we feel
and like every other action or activity we will choose to do it or not.
Her name was 66730, or at least that was the name she went
by. Her father had died in a German Concentration camp as did her sister. Her
freedom, her dignity, her humanity had been stripped away by those who
imprisoned her and yet she survived. And not only did she survive she went on
to minister to some of the very people who had been responsible for what had
happened to her.  You probably know her
as Corrie
Ten Boom and she said  “Forgiveness is
an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of
the heart.”  And I would suspect
that Corrie Ten Boom had a lot more to forgive than any one of us.
Forgiveness is a choice and you will either choose to do it
or you won’t.
Forgiveness Isn’t
a Matter of Trust 
Often I will hear people
say “How can I forgive them when I can’t trust them?”  Two different issues.  Forgiveness is about the past, trust is about
the future. Sometimes we hear people say “you haven’t forgiven if you haven’t
forgotten.”  That isn’t true. 
What happens when you cut yourself?  You often scar.  Even after the cut is healed over and no
longer hurts there is still a reminder.  I
was rooming with a couple of other pastors years ago and they started comparing
scars.  One had been in a horrific car
accident while the other had numerous surgeries for cancer when he was  a pre-teen. 
Let me tell you the scars were impressive.  Then they looked at me.  So I held up my hand and said “Once when I was
changing the oil on my VW convertible the wrench slipped and I got a really
nasty cut on my hand.”
When we have been hurt by someone, emotionally, physically,
spiritually it hurts and will often leave a scar.  With forgiveness the hurt will go away but
often times the scar will remain.  If
someone takes advantage of me in a business deal, I can forgive them but I
would be silly if I allowed them to do it again.  Goes back to “Fool me once shame on you, fool
me twice shame on me.”
And if they broke the law they need to be accountable to the
law even if you forgive them, you can forgive them for what they did to you but
it is not in your power to absolve them of criminal behaviour.
And often it is the person who did the hurting who equates
forgiveness with forgetfulness.  The
person who breaks their wedding vows is hurt because their spouse doesn’t trust
them.  Duh.  The abusive parent can’t understand why their
relationship with their kid can’t be the same as other parents and kids have,
even after they’ve been forgiven. 
Because the scars are still there. 
Now understand that the scars fade and we are reminded of
the hurt less and less.  Time may not
heal all wounds but it heals a lot of them. 
But understand this, you can’t earn forgiveness, it is a gift, but you
have to earn trust.  Forgiveness is about
you, trust is about them.
It was Friedrich Nietzsche  who
said “What
upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on I can longer believe
you.”
Forgiveness isn’t Blaming
Ourselves
Too many times I
have heard someone trying to excuse the behaviour of others by taking guilt on themselves. 
It’s almost if we can figure out what we did wrong then we won’t have to
forgive because it will be our fault not the other persons, and then we can ask
for forgiveness. This creeps up so often in cases like sexual abuse in
children, where they are convinced that they must have done something to
initiate the encounter. Or in the case of physical abuse where the child
convinces himself that he must have been really bad for mommy or daddy to hurt
him that way. How many children who are involved in divorce blame themselves
for the emotional hurts that their parents inflicted upon them?  by accepting the blame that is not rightfully
ours we deny ourselves the opportunity, the necessity to forgive and to be
healed. 
There are people out there who suffered hurts years ago who continue to
blame themself for things that aren’t’ their fault. Wives who mistakenly think
that the command for wives to submit in Ephesians five means to live in
grovelling servitude beneath a tyrant. And because of that these women
constantly take the blame, grovel and ask for forgiveness even when they are
not in the wrong. This isn’t being a good “Christian wife” and it
certainly isn’t following God’s plan for marriage. Instead it is unhealthy
neurotic behaviour, and it is definitely not the same as forgiveness. Blaming
ourselves provides us with an easy out where we don’t have to forgive those who
have hurt us.
Forgiveness Isn’t
an Option. 
If you are a Christ
Follower you cannot simply choose to not forgive someone.  Not an option, not at all.  Two scriptures to close this message and they
do not need explaining or commentary. 
The first one comes at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:14-15 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will
forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive
your sins.
And the second was part of the story we read earlier Matthew 18:34-35 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had
paid his entire debt. “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you
refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”