A little boy disobeyed his mother. But his conscience began to hurt him, and he was sneaking up to his room when his mother saw him. “Where are you going, Frank?” she asked. “To my room to talk to God.” “Is it something you can’t tell me?” Frank explained, “Yes, it is. You’ll just scold and punish me while God will forgive and forget all about it.”
Our news as a society is filled with questions of forgiveness. An accident occurs in the Pacific that cost the lives of 14 young people when a sub hits a boat. Mistakes were made and the captain is punished. But families think it is not enough and demand more. A bomber blows up a building and changes the lives of a whole community. So we want to watch the execution on TV. We say, “It will bring closure.”
No one denies that wrongs were done and that great injustice took place in these two cases and in hundreds of others like them. Even things on a much smaller scale that in some ways bothers us more. The neighbors dog that keeps fertilizing your lawn. The colleague at work who gossips about you. The friend who borrowed something and won’t return it.
What do we do with our anger? Buddy Hackett says he doesn’t bother to carry a grudge. He says, “I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge. You know why? While you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing.”
I have seen people hold grudges for years. Ever heard of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s? You think that only happens in the hills of Kentucky? We hold the grudge because we cannot resolve the anger.
I was teaching a Bible study one time on the story of the “Healing of the Demonic.” A man with so many demons in him that they are called legion. Jesus orders the demons out of the man into a herd of pigs that are nearby. The pigs run off the side of a cliff and die. Now our attention is on the fact that this man is healed, he was once mentally deranged and now he is well. A woman asked, “Is the farmer compensated by Jesus for the loss of the pigs?” Good question! It was a good thing that happened but the farmer experienced the loss. To whom does the farmer express his anger and does his injustice keep the farmer from becoming a Christian?
“We are such a mixture of sinner and sinned against that we cannot forgive people without feeling set free ourselves.” A woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. A known sinful life and with an alabaster jar of perfume – the woman had been a prostitute. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. The Pharisee doesn’t like this happening at his house. Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. You and I know that God is the moneylender and that we are the debtors. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Corrie Ten Boom, who years after her concentration camp experiences in Nazi Germany, met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever encountered. He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister. He had jeered and visually raped them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with hand out-stretched and said, “Will you forgive me?” She writes, “I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. I forgive you, brother, I cried with my whole heart. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!” To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.
They betray him, whip him, taunt him, mock him, spit on him, curse him and nail him to a cross, and in retaliation he cries out to God: “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
We all know that we are to forgive so that we may be forgiven, but how do we do it? Four simple rules to forgiveness!
Remember God’s Word – they have been forgiven by God whether we forgive them or not. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14) “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21)
Turn to God in prayer. The Lord’s Prayer shows how important prayer is in being released of the anger. “…forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors….” The best therapy is to talk it out and there is no better therapy then to talk it out with God. “You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:43)
Deal with the anger (issue) now. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Eph 4:26)
Do a good deed/turn for the one that needs our forgiveness. On the evening of April 25th, 1958, a young Korean exchange student, a leader in student Christian affairs in the University of Pennsylvania, left his flat and went to the corner to post a letter to his parents in Pusan. Turning from the mailbox he stepped into the path of eleven leather-jacketed teenage boys. Without a word they attacked him, beating him with a black-jack, a lead pipe and with their shoes and fists. Later, when the police found him in the gutter, he was dead. All Philadelphia cried out for vengeance. The District Attorney secured legal authority to try the boys as adults so that those found guilty could be given the death penalty. Then a letter arrived from Korea that made everyone stop and think. It was signed by the parents and by twenty other relatives of the murdered boy. It read in part: “Our family has met together and we have decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government be given to those who have committed this criminal action . . . In order to give evidence of our sincere hope contained in this petition, we have decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational and social guidance of the boys when they are released . . . We have dared to express our hope with a spirit received from the Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ who died for our sins.” Turning the other cheek to our enemy is a call to make friends of that enemy. The best way to forgive is to turn the bitterness to love.