New Hope Notes
The Steps Of Forgiveness
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro
Today we are going to talk about forgiveness. We are thankful for God’s forgiveness and in order for us to be able to forgive others, we need to first receive His forgiveness and transfer it to others. However, it’s easier said than done, because we are living in a society that doesn’t nurture forgiveness. Forgiveness is not popular in our culture nowadays, but revenge is. That’s why we can see that the stories of the biggest blockbusters usually involve revenge, and they can make money off the idea of revenge! Besides, there are about 1 million 200,000 attorneys practicing in the United States; there are needs for so many attorneys because a lot of time there is a need for revenge. Nonetheless, the truth is that only forgiveness can lead us to the most prominent eternal adventures God has planned for us. And it takes a partnership with God so that we are able to forgive. Before we go into the depth of how we can partner with God in forgiveness, let’s ponder upon the 4 situations below, and see what you personally think of justice and mercy at this moment. For each of the 4 situations, should there be justice or mercy?
1. The killing of Osama Bin Laden
2. USA bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
3. Andrea Yates, who in 2001, killed her 5 children in Texas
4. Bernard Madoff who cheated thousands out of billions
Should there be justice or mercy? Here is a story about a gunman back in October 2006. This gunman took hostage of 10 children in an Amish school house. He shot them and then shot himself afterwards. 5 of the kids survived the shot and the rest died. This gunman left behind a widowed wife and 3 children. Within the 24 hours after this incident, the Amish elders came to offer forgiveness to this gunman’s family. One of the elders was even the grandfather of a dead hostage kid. The father of the gunman was very shameful and hurt but one of the elders held him and comforted him. The elders even established a scholarship for the 3 children of the gunman, because of the concern that they would suffer a lack of opportunity in the future. The school house was also then destroyed and a new one was built 6 months after; this new school is now called New Hope School. It’s just so amazing to see how those elders were able to forgive so quickly after the tragic event. However, there were commentators criticizing that their forgiveness was inappropriate and such forgiveness was a denial of evil. From these comments, we can see that the society doesn’t nurture forgiveness. In fact, true forgiveness is not to overlook evil. Forgiveness is actually:
1. Forgiveness is not forgetting. It means a change of the way I see things
2. Forgiveness is not destructive. It does not mean that we let hurt and damage continue and go on.
3. Forgiveness is based on recognizing and admitting that people are always bigger than their faults
4. Forgiveness recognizes that I need second chances and by forgiving I make myself available to His grace.
5. Forgiveness is not the same thing as approval; it simply recognizes that it is God who is to bring justice, not me!
Before we can forgive, we need to keep in mind what forgiveness truly is, and we forgive because we leave justice in God’s hands.
1. Leave JUSTICE to God.
Sin is like a corrosive acid. We are not capable to handle sins, only Jesus can. If we deal with people ourselves, we are trying to deal with sins ourselves. By doing so, we are only letting this acid to be retained in us. Acid can destroy the container itself first before it gets to be poured on others. When we forgive, we are not retaining the acid, and we are partnering with God by letting Him to do the justice part. Our role is to forgive and His role is to do justice. These two roles can’t be switched and God will make a balance when we do our roles right and partner with Him. He never let sin go unabated.
God’s justice is very different from our own ways and perceptions of justice. When God carries out justice, mercy is also involved. He can choose to give people chances and mercy with conviction. When conviction comes and a person repents, God can choose to forgive his debts. But if a person chooses to refuse God’s mercy and conviction from time to time, God will eventually carry out His justice in His ways. His justice is not a condemnation, He convicts but not to condemn. However, our ways of justice usually come with condemnation. Conviction draws people to God while condemnation drives people away from God. The scripture said, “I tell you, her sins - and they are many - have been forgiven, so she has shown Me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love” (Luke 7:47). If we catch the truth of forgiveness today and do it, it will deepen our quality of love. Such love is sincere and authentic. If we don’t forgive, our love is shallow and selfish, and we won’t be able to relate to others without forgiveness. Forgiveness does not approve sins; it only brings people to God. When we forgive, it has to be complete forgiveness. We can’t just say that we forgive someone but secretly hoping that something bad will happen to that person. This is an act of carrying out justice in our own ways but we can’t take any part of the justice in our hands. It is because when you do so, you allow sins to come in and it only destroys your personality and gives you bitterness. In other words, you are the only one who suffers from unforgiving. Therefore, forgiveness is a gift to us instead of others so that we don’t get to be corroded by others.
It was written that, “God will repay each person according to what they have done” (Romans 2:6). God will render to each person according to his needs. Partnering with God means that we let God to take care of justice completely while we forgive completely. However, if we don’t do our roles right and take any part of justice in our hands, God will wait and work on us first as the scripture said, “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted, but dealing out retribution to those who... do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:6-8). So this partnership works when God does justice and we do forgiveness. This way God will work on people’s hearts and bring restoration. But the reality is that we sometimes punish people subtly in a way that we don’t even notice ourselves! And by doing that we are not forgiving completely, and trying to do part of the justice our ways instead. We punish people by cutting them out of our lives, putting them on a guilt trip, giving silent treatment or even giving gossip prayers! We sometimes even think that we can forgive because God is going to punish them, but this attitude is not a complete forgiveness! For the Bible said, “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble” (Proverbs 24:17 NLT). We are not in any position to condemn or punish others in any way. We need to cooperate with God through complete forgiveness and there will be no condemnation. It was written, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord” (Rom.12:19). We let the justice of God convict people and not to condemn them with our hearts, because our own ways of justice only breaks people’s hearts. If we don’t partner with God, we are shutting the doors of God’s mercy on people. This leads us to become the kind of people who drink poison themselves but wait for others to die.
We have to forgive because this is the only way to keep us free from sins. And I admit that forgiveness is the toughest thing ever. But once you catch it and then do it, your quality of love changes to be incorruptible and selfless. Though you will need to surrender a lot so that you can partner with God, you will only benefit from it. Unforgiving is a poison that kills you first instead of others. You definitely don’t approve the wrongs by forgiving. You keep forgiving because you leave the matters in God’s justice. Meanwhile, we also need to be careful at the same time, as when sin takes place in our lives, we need to:
2. Be WISE but not VINDICTIVE.
You don’t want people to take advantage of you through your forgiveness. In other words, we forgive but we are not to be dumb. We learn to be wiser from mistakes. As the scripture said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). So while we do not take revenge, we still need to be wise so we don’t let people hurt us over and over again with the same mistake. We need to get wiser through mistakes while we keep forgiving, Paul said to Timothy in the Bible that, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself” (2 Tim. 4:14-15). But what if people don’t want to accept our forgiveness?
3. Start with YOURSELF regardless of their response or lack of it.
We still keep forgiving regardless how other people respond because we are doing it to set ourselves free. We don’t want to retain others’ sins in us by unforgiving. For it was written, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). We keep forgiving so that we keep our hearts open to God’s grace. It is tough but it determines the quality of our love. In the book of Matthew, Jesus mentioned a parable of an unforgiving debtor. This debtor owed his master millions of dollars in the old days. He couldn’t pay back and begged for mercy from the master and promised he would pay back the debt if given more time. The master had mercy on him and forgave his debt completely so the debtor didn’t even need to pay anymore! This debtor left the master happily and then saw one of his servants who owed him a few thousands dollars, which was less than what he owed his master. This servant begged for mercy like the debtor did to the master. However, this debtor showed no mercy and put the servant in prison until the servant could pay off the debt. And the master was angry after learning about this; according to the scripture, here was the consequence to the unforgiving debtor, “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (Matt. 18:34-35). The unforgiving debtor ended up in prison and actually he would never be able to repay his debt while in prison. He was put in prison forever because he didn’t extend the mercy that he received from his master. If we don’t understand the truth of forgiveness, it is going to affect the rest of our lives like this unforgiving debtor. When we forgive, we keep our hearts free so that we can continue on and not to be disqualified for what God has planned for us in the future. So I have an assignment for you this week:
WRITE DOWN the names of those you need to forgive and check yourself.
For this week’s assignment, you need to write down your problems and the names that are involved with the problems. You have to think of the best resolution and write them down, and then forgive the names that are involved. Next, you need check it off after it is resolved and move on by shredding the paper, so that you don’t look back and let it to affect your life anymore. And you will need to do the same steps for each problem you have in your mind.
The best way to resolve a problem is to get it out of your head. Let me tell you a story of a friend to illustrate this better. My friend was troubled and seeing a counselor for that. He kept complaining about others to the counselor. Then one day, the counselor gave him a glass of water. The counselor asked him to sip some water and hold it in his mouth, and then spit it out back to the glass; and he had to repeat the same steps every couple minutes. So as time goes by, the water level raised because of the saliva. At the end, the counselor asked my friend to drink it! Of course it was disgusting and he didn’t want to drink it! Then the counselor brought out the concept that if he kept swallowing his saliva inside his mouth from time to time, it’s not noticeable and it wouldn’t be disgusting to keep swallowing saliva that way. However, if we take our saliva out and then drink it back in, it’s very disgusting and we wouldn’t want to do that. Our problems are very much like the saliva. If we keep our problems in our heads and ponder upon it from time to time, it’s very much like swallowing our saliva, and we didn’t think we have to get rid of the problems to move on. But once we get the problems out of our head and analyze it, then we will realize that we don’t want to keep them in our heads and want to resolve them right away so you can be rid of them.
God’s forgiveness is very beautiful. Before we can forgive others, we need to first receive Jesus, who is the author of forgiveness. If any of you have not received Jesus and want to receive Him and His forgiveness now, please don’t hesitate. You just need to pray to Him and simply let Him know you accept Him with the following prayer. For those of you who already received Jesus, if you need God’s strength to forgive others, you can pray and ask God to teach you wisdom and discernment, and to protect your heart from corrosion by forgiving others continually and completely.
“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, thank you that you came, and you died for my sins, that I might have life everlasting. Forgive me, forgive through me, we(I) love being your people. Now I say this, so everyone can hear me, so you can hear me, so I can hear myself, so the devil can hear, Jesus Christ is my Lord, He’s my Savior and I belong to Him. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen”
Thank God for His grace in our lives. May you be blessed, and live a free and abundant life in Jesus from today on. Amen.
1. What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive?
2. Who does justice and who does forgiveness?
3. How much do we need to forgive?
4. What is the difference between God’s justice and our justice?
5. How does forgiveness work when another person does not accept or ask for it?