Why do I have to forgive?

Good Morning to everyone listening today to our series on the hard questions of life.

Grace and Peace in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God Loves you, and I love you, but it God that counts.

Today's hard question is: "Why do I have to forgive?"

As a pastor, of all the hard questions in life, the one that is probably the most difficult to deal with it is this one, "Why do I have to forgive." People will come to me and they will, eventually accept the untimely lose of family, deal with personal hardship, unanswered prayer, and a host of other difficult situations that face the human soul as we struggle through life's challenges. Yet, of all the hard questions that seem almost insurmountable, it is in the area of forgiveness that we face our greatest stumbling block to a full, joyful and happy life -- the inability to forgive!

In answering the question I will offer four possible answers to the question, "Why do I have to forgive?"

1. Unforgiveness is a kind of soul sickness that is unhealthy.

2. It masks our own sinfulness, which separates us from the grace of God .

3. Cuts us off from the fullness of all other relationships. - resentment

4. It is not what Jesus would do.

The instance of unforgiveness that sticks in my mind the most is a young man who once came to me as a Pastor and could not find it in his soul the capacity to forgive is natural father. As a child this young man was abandon by his father and was raised by his mother. Every time the word father was mentioned or family discussed, his countenance would change from joy and happiness to bitterness, self-pity, as well as contempt for his absent father. Again I would hear the reliving of a childhood deprived of material as well as emotional support. I would hear about the struggles of the mother in that family. It was as if I were in a court room and the charges were being read and the sentences were issued in the many counts of crimes against this father. As the list of childhood and adult resentments were listed again, it was as if the lash of a whip were struck against the back of this absent father of childhood memory. The bitterness and self pity had turned into resentment and hostility towards a man who was not even present in time but only memory. The once peaceful face of this young man had been instantly transformed into the angry and uninviting face of hostility and unrest.

This father had be tried and retried over and over again in the courtroom of unforgiveness, and, the continuous execution of the penalty of resentment was meted out again and again. Now brothers and sisters, that is a bad place to be. It is a place of bondage to those painful experiences and seduction into the same evil deeds in heart as were done in fact by the person who caused us so much pain. Yet, we find some sick pleasure in punishing over and over again the memory of those who hurt us. It is this sin sickness of the soul that leads us to the second answer to the question, "Why do I have to forgive?".

Jesus said in (Matthew 7:1-3 NIV), "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. {2} For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. {3} "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

Our unforgiveness becomes the act of becoming judge, jury, and executioner, over and over again in our thought life. One of the things it does brothers and sisters is that it masks our own sinfulness and need to look at our own life before God's eyes.

"Now, wait a minute preacher!", you may say, "Do you mean that what they did to me is not wrong? You mean that it is my fault?" My answer is no, it does not mean that, but the evil deeds of another will have nothing to do with me, when I stand before God in judgement. Like Jesus says my unforgiving judgement of the one who hurt me, has become a great "plank" in my own eyes keeping me from looking at my own faults. If I am blind to my own faults, I cannot turn away from them, I cannot confess them and God will not forgive them, but rather, judge us by the same measure of our unforgiveness. Jesus is talking to us. In the Lords Prayer, we pray forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

"Why do I have to forgive?" Because it masks our own sinfulness, which separates us from the grace of God and forgiveness.

This brings us to the third reason "Why do I have to forgive?" Our unforgiveness not only cuts us off from God's grace, but it also cuts us off from others, even the ones we love. With the bitterness of unforgiveness comes the emotional illness of resentment. The spiritual disease of resentment comes from the word that means to "re sense", to experience again the hurtful emotions attached to the wrongs done to us in the past. To resent is to "hurt again". When we hurt we begin to close our emotional doors to protect ourselves until the hurt is over. That means that no one else can come in emotionally, and we are not going out while it hurts. The problem with unforgiveness and resentment, is that every time we hurt again, every time we become the judge, jury, and executioner in our mind's courtroom we "re sense" the hurt again, up goes the emotional walls and our loved ones are shut out. Brothers and sisters, that too is a kind of bondage. Our loved ones are paying the price for our unforgiveness.

Do you know what the terrible part of it all is? Many a person has found to their own personal horror, that they are doing the very hurtful things to their love ones that was done to themselves by the person they cannot forgive. If it is not the same thing, many times it is just as hurtful!

To go back to our friend with the absent father. It was only after the "plank in his own eye was removed," that the full weight of guilt came upon him regarding what he had done and become because of his unforgiveness. He cried out to God for forgiveness of his own sin. That's when the miracle of forgiveness began to take place. With the conviction of his own guilt came the realization that, in God's eyes, he was no better than his father.

In fact according to Jesus, this unforgiving son became convicted of murder! Jesus says, in (Matthew 5:21-22 NIV) "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' {22} But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother [fathers too!] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, ' [that means dirty so and so in Bible language] is answerable to the Sanhedrin [the Supreme Court]. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

Now that's serious, brothers and sisters, unforgiveness puts us in the danger of the fires of Hell!

Well, our unforgiving son friend became convicted that he was no better than his father. His father had just abandon his family, in the eyes of Jesus, our son friend was guilty of murder, as well as emotional abandonment neglect of his own family and friends. With this conviction, came the son's forgiveness of his father, and with the forgiveness of the father, came forgiveness of the son in the eyes of God. It was a blessed experience! The bondage of years of unforgiveness and resentment was washed away.

It was like a great burden lifted, and freedom was just beginning. No longer would the word, father, bring about the change in mood from joy and happiness to bitterness, self-pity, as well as contempt for his absent father. No longer would our son friend be able to hide is own sin behind his unforgiving judgement of his father. And no longer would his family have to pay the price of his unforgiveness by cutting them off emotionally because of resentment. By forgiving, he was forgiven, and his relationships with all were open again. Glory to God!

The final answer to "Why do I have to forgive?" can best be answered by a little bracelet I kept seeing on the wrists of several folks at a religious conference in Macon, Georgia. As I would go from meeting to meeting I kept seeing some of the ministers and church folk wearing a black ribbon like bracelet with four white letters on them, written in capital. It read WWJD. I asked one of folks, "What does WWJD mean?" The man smiled, looked me square in the eyes, and said, "What would Jesus Do?"

The final answer to "Why do I have to forgive?" is summed up by the bracelet letters WWJD. What would Jesus Do? To forgive is what Jesus would do! Do you say, I can't forgive such and such for the terrible things they did to me. They do not deserve forgiveness. How can you forgive someone who has done such a terrible thing? There are some things you just can't forgive. What would Jesus do? He would forgive.

The things that Jesus' own people and loved ones did to Jesus might fit into the category of "How can you forgive someone who has done such a terrible thing?" His own people lied and had him crucified, tortured and killed as a criminal. His best friends abandon him when thing got bad, and when he died, they forgot all about the things he had said. "There are some things you just cannot forgive!" Well, do you know what would Jesus do. Do you know what Jesus, the son of God, did?

(Luke 23:33-34 NIV) When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left. {34} Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Jesus forgive them! That what Jesus does.

I also remember being perplexed, at first, at the sight of the Pope, going to visit Sirhan Sirhan, the man who shot and tried to assassinate him. I saw the news and I wondered, "What is he doing in prison visiting the man who shot and tried to kill him?" Although I am not a Catholic and do not believe that the Pope represents the authority of Christ on earth, it did occur to me that, at that moment, he was the best representative of what Christ would do. He want in to Sirhan Sirhan to forgive him because that's what Jesus would do.

You see brothers and sisters, Jesus came to earth to forgive the thousands and thousands of years of sins against his heavenly father. He came, not to be judge, jury, and executioner of the sinful human race but to save it through forgiveness. He paid our penalty for sin which is death, by his blood so God could remain righteous and merciful at the same time.

"Why do I have to forgive?"

1. Unforgiveness is a kind of soul sickness that is unhealthy.

2. It masks our own sinfulness, which separates us from the grace of God .

3. It Cuts us off from the fullness of all other relationships.

4. But most of all, it is not what Jesus would do.

Jesus wants to forgive you and give you eternal life. Confess your unforgiveness, ask him to come into your life, experience true joy and happiness.

Remember, God Loves you, and I love you, but it God that counts.

Would you like to know Jesus Christ as your savior and receive eternal life?

I want to know Jesus Christ as my Savior!

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