Why Should I Forgive and Forget?

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Why Should I Forgive and Forget?
Rev. Thomas A. West, Sr
March 10, 2024
Matthew 18:21-35
The other day I saw an advertisement for Karate Lessons, and it made me think about the different lessons people usually take (Golf Lessons, Piano Lessons, Gun Safety Lessons, etc.) But I’ve never seen an advertisement for lessons on one of the most important things we’ll ever do - lessons on how to love.
This is one of the reasons why I’m beginning today's message by looking at I Corinthians 13. This is the love chapter of the Bible and it teaches us how to love the people in our lives. If you want to love somebody -whether it be your spouse, your child, your neighbors, your enemies - then you need to treat them with the qualities mentioned in verses 4-7 ...
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 NASB95
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
"Love ... keeps no record of wrongs" (v. 5) - that is, it doesn’t hold any grudges, it doesn’t keep a list of the names of the people who have hurt you.
I heard a story some time ago, about a man who had rabies. This took place in the early 1900’s before a cure for rabies had been found. He was bitten by a rapid animal and taken to the local hospital. The doctor examined him, ran some tests, and broke the bad news to him.
He said, "I’m sorry but you have contracted rabies and there’s no hope for you. We can keep you comfortable during your last days, but that’s all. I suggest you write out your will and set your affairs in order."
The man was shaken but managed to keep his composure. He asked the doctor if he could have a writing pad and a pen. The doctor found him a pad and a pen and the man started writing.
The doctor left the hospital and returned several hours later. He caught the man still writing and said, "I’m glad you took my advice. It’s good to see that you’re working on your will."
The patient looked up and replied, "Doc, you don’t understand. This isn’t my will. This is a list of people I’m going to bite before I die!"
Love isn’t like that. God says,
"If you want to love somebody, then you will forgive and forget when they offend you."
You may be asking yourself …
1. How Can I Forgive and Forget?
Jesus gave a parable which answers this very question. In Matthew 18:21-35 He tells the parable of the unmerciful servant ....
Matthew 18:21–35 NASB95
21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
We can learn from the unmerciful servant’s mistakes. He failed to remember what his king did for him, he didn’t release the offender from his judgement, and he didn’t resolve to overcome evil with good.
If you want to forgive and forget, then ....
A. Remember what your KING DID FOR YOU.
That’s what the unmerciful servant should’ve done. He should’ve backed off and said, "I can’t hold anything against you. What you did to me is nothing in comparison to what I did to my king. He forgave me, surely I can forgive you." He should have remembered what his king had did for him.
And that’s what you need to do when someone offends you. You need to remember what your King - Jesus Christ - did for you. If you know Him on a personal basis, then He has forgiven your entire sin-debt. It’s paid for and settled and God will never ever hold your sins against you. He forgave you, You have been forgiven! How in the world can you NOT forgive others?
Think about that person who has offended you. What they did to you is NOTHING in comparison to what you’ve done to God - and yet He has forgiven you. He has forgiven you of millions of wrongs. Surely you can forgive someone for a few wrongs.
So remember what your King did for you. And don’t stop there. There’s a second step need you to take ...
B. Release the Offender from Your JUDGEMENT.
That’s what the unmerciful servant should’ve done. He should’ve said, "You no longer owe me anything. I forgive you." But he didn’t. Instead, he threw the man into prison.
We all need to learn from the unmerciful servant’s mistake. When somebody wrongs you, release that individual from your judgement. Come to the point where you can honestly say,
"All is forgiven, and you don’t owe me a thing." Release them from your judgement.
You may be saying, "Pastor, that’s something I can’t do overnight." And you are right! Forgiveness is seldom something you can do overnight. Most of the time, it’s a process you have to work through. I call this "THE 490 PRINCIPLE" (vs. 21-22). Jesus said we are to forgive a person 7 times 70; or as often as we need to.
Sometimes we make it seem like forgiveness is just a one-time thing. But the truth of the matter is, forgiveness is a process. Jesus said that it’s continual - you need to keep on forgiving. Every time that memory comes up you forgive them again. Keep releasing them until you finally feel like you’ve released them from your judgment - then you don’t have to do it anymore. Because you’ve forgiven and forgotten.
So now you may be saying, "Pastor, I just don’t feel like forgiving." So what now? Look,
forgiveness is an action, not an emotion!
God doesn’t say, "Forgive them when you feel like it." He says, "Forgiven them because it’s the right thing to do."
And so I make the decision to forgive, put it into practice, and then the feelings come. You see, it’s always easier to act your way into a feeling, than to feel your way into an action. So don’t wait for the feeling. Just go ahead and release them.
Corrie Ten Boom shares this true story in her book, The Hiding Place:
"It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there -- the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. "How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein," he said. "To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!"
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."
Corrie didn’t wait until she felt like forgiving that man. She remembered what Jesus did for her, realized that God wanted her to forgive him, so she released her offender, and then the feelings came.
So don’t wait until the feelings come. Go ahead and release the offender from your judgement, whether you feel like it or not.
Some of you may be saying to yourself, "But Pastor, they’ll get off scott-free if I let them go and that’s just not fair!" and You’re right. But who says life is fair? God doesn’t. Life can be very unfair and you need to learn to get through it and realize that God will eventually settle the score. Judgement is His, NOT ours.
This is one of the reasons why I have a deep belief in both heaven and hell. If you don’t believe in hell, you’ve got a real problem. People, God is the God of love, but He’s also the God of justice. And one day He’s going to settle the score.
And in the meantime,
the best thing we can do is forgive that person who offends us and let God worry about settling the score.
Moving on … we need to …
C. Resolve to Overcome Evil with GOOD.
That’s what the unmerciful servant should’ve done. He should’ve done something good to his fellow servant, but he didn’t. He tried to overcome evil with evil.
We as believers need to learn from the unmerciful servant’s bad example. Do the opposite of what he did. When you forgive someone, do something good to them. It will do more good that you can ever imagine - for you and for them. As hard as it might be, it will help you forgive.
Proverbs 25:21–22 NASB95
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 22 For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you.
Proverbs 25:21 and 22 says this: If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; 22 For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you.
Chris Carrier of Coral Gables, Florida, was abducted when he was 10 years old. His kidnapper, angry with the boy’s family, burned him with cigarettes, stabbed him numerous times with an ice pick, then shot him in the head and left him to die in the Everglades. Remarkably, the boy survived, though he lost sight in one eye. No one was ever arrested.
Recently, a man confessed to the crime. Carrier, now a youth minister, went to see him.
He found David McAllister, a 77-year-old ex-convict, frail and blind, living in a North Miami Beach nursing home. Carrier began visiting often, reading to McAllister from the Bible and praying with him. His ministry opened the door for McAllister to make a profession of faith.
Carrier learned that the best way to overcome evil, and best way to put forgiveness into practice, is to do something good for the person who offends you.
Now you may be thinking, "Pastor, all this is good and fine, but tell me why ... "
II. Why Should I Forgive and Forget?
There are several reasons why. For one thing, it’s the right thing to do. And for another thing,
if you’ve REALLY experienced the love and forgiveness of Jesus, then how can you not forgive?
That’s one of the main points of this parable (Matthew 18:33).
And look at what Jesus says in verses. 34-35 ....
Matthew 18:34-35
Matthew 18:34–35 NASB95
34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
In other words, if you really belong to Him and you’re holding a grudge, then God will eventually take you to the woodshed. Keep in mind, the Lord doesn’t deal with His children as an angry judge. He deals with them as a loving father. And why does a loving father discipline his children?
To keep them from doing wrong and train them to do right. And that’s how God works in our lives.
God knows that holding grudges will eventually hurt you,
and when you won’t let go of a grudge, He will take you to the woodshed - not because He is cruel and mean, but because He loves you and wants to break you from something that will ultimately hurt you. That’s why you need to forgive and forget when somebody offends you.
As I close, let me ask you this question.
Are you holding any grudges? Be truthful to yourself. If so, then you need to forgive and forget, otherwise it will eventually hurt you and tear you down. Do what the unmerciful servant failed to do:
Remember .... Release .... and Resolve.
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