Note from Eric Elder: I’ve asked my good friend Kent Sanders to share a series of messages with you over the next few weeks. He’ll be writing about practical ways to build better relationships, starting this week with forgiveness. I hope you enjoy learning from Kent as much as I do. You can learn more about Kent from the links at the end of today’s message.
FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER
Part 1 of the “One Another” Series
by Kent Sanders
I don’t cook very often (for good reason), but I admit that I can make a pretty good peach pie. A few months ago, my Dad gave me a large bag of sliced peaches he had picked from a peach tree in his back yard. I decided I would try to make a pie. I gathered all the ingredients for my special recipe, mixed them up, poured it over a crust and added another crust on top, and baked it.
When I took it out of the oven and let it cool off for a while, I couldn’t wait to taste it. I took a big bite and something didn’t taste right. In fact, it tasted pretty terrible. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until my wife asked, “Did you add sugar?”
Then it hit me: In my quest to bake a perfect pie, I left out a key ingredient. The result was a bitterness that ruined the whole thing.
A bitter pie is something that can easily be replaced. But a bitter heart is a much more serious problem.
It’s easy to become bitter and angry when you’ve been hurt by someone. But when you carry around the emotional baggage from the past, it only hurts yourself and those you love. I have known people in their thirties who still held grudges toward people who had hurt them in high school. I have met others who kept a mental list of everyone who had ever wronged them.
Have you ever met someone like this, or perhaps even been that person? If so, these words from the Apostle Paul are for you:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” [Colossions 3.12-15, ESV]
Paul’s instruction in these verses is easy to understand, but difficult to put into practice. Forgiveness is never easy, but it’s possible with God’s help.
Let’s look at a few practical observations about forgiveness from this passage:
1. Forgiveness is a choice. Paul speaks about forgiveness in terms of a command, not an option. When you think of how others have hurt you in the past, your first thought is probably not, “I feel like forgiving them!” But forgiveness doesn’t come from your emotions. There is never a time when you feel like forgiving others. It’s a choice or a decision to let go of your anger and hatred toward someone.
2. Jesus is the model for forgiveness. We are to forgive others just as Christ has forgiven us. Those are tough words! When you consider the offenses you have committed against God, the often petty complaints we have against others don’t seem so important. But even if someone has committed a serious offense against you, Jesus continues to be the model for forgiving others completely.
3. Love is the driving force behind forgiveness. Love is the binding agent of all relationships. In the simplest terms, love means doing what is best for someone else. Forgiveness is always the best option. Hatred and anger never results in good. Love is always the best option, even though it is not always easy.
4. The result of forgiveness is peace. Did you notice the connection in these verses between forgiving others and peace? When you let go of your anger, you experience a peace like never before. The person who hurt you no longer has hold of your mind and emotions. You are free to experience all that life has to offer when you let go of your anger and bitterness.
No one said forgiveness was easy. But when God commands something, we know it’s possible when we rely on his strength to help us accomplish it.
Is there someone you need to forgive? Only you can answer that question. Search your heart: Are you angry or bitter at someone because they have hurt you?
Regardless of the offense, forgiveness is possible. It may take time, and even professional help of some kind, but it’s possible. Ask God to give you wisdom so you can begin the healing process in your life.
Kent Sanders writes on art and creativity at ArtistsSuitcase.com, which you can subscribe to at this link. He is also Professor of Worship at St. Louis Christian College in Florissant, MO. You can connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.
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