There’s a common phrase that you are going to have no problem at all filling in the blank. And this is what the phrase is, is the phrase forgive. And now I want you to think for a second, where does that phrase come from? And you don’t need to say it out loud, you don’t need to raise your hand, but, but ask yourself, is that phrase in the Bible and does it apply to me in terms of me needing to forgive and forget some of you, you’re kinda wheels return? Maybe, maybe not. Well, I, I’ll tell that the actual phrase, forgive and forget is not in scripture, but it comes from Hebrews chapter eight, verse 12, where it says, for I, the I being God, for I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. So God is saying that when he forgives us, he no longer holds our sins against us.
He, he’s not saying that, that God literally forgets ’cause God can’t forget he is God. But he’s saying that when we experience the forgiveness of God, those sins are gone. They’re no longer counted against us. They’re no longer held against us. And so sometimes people will take this and somehow jump off and say that we as people, as Christians, should just forgive and forgive. But can I tell you that’s not what that scripture said? And you won’t find that anywhere else in all of scripture that we aren’t called to forgive and forget. And yet we are told to forgive. We’re told to forgive a lot. Why? Why does scripture teach this theme of forgiveness? It’s a theme that runs throughout all of scripture. Why is it such a big deal? John Hopkins University? It’s done a lot of research. And here’s one of the studies that they’ve done.
Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack, improving cholesterol levels and sleep and reducing pain, blood pressure and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress and research points to an increase in the forgiveness health connection as you age. So it’s saying that when we hold on to unforgiveness, it causes us to have more bitterness and anger and malice in our life. And those things lead to health problems, specifically the big one that, that it would point to is, is heart conditions, uh, that you have high blood pressure, which can lead to big problems in your life. And then it also points out that the health benefits of forgiveness increase as you get altered. Now, there’s a few practical reasons for that. Uh, one, because taking care of yourself as you get older becomes that much more important.
But two, it’s because as you get older, you have more things to forgive. Here’s the truth in life, if you are living and breathing, you will have people wrong. You, period. The older you get, the more people will grieve you and wrong you. And that’s just a part of life. Maybe you’re walking in today. And when I talk about that word forgiveness, you know immediately what the thing in your life is that you are holding onto that you do not want to forgive. Maybe it’s a person, maybe it’s a man or a woman or a group. Maybe it’s the church. Maybe you’re walking in here and, and somehow you ended up here, but in the back of your mind you have a lot of unforgiveness towards the church. Maybe it’s even specifically this church.
And with the studies show is that the more you hold on to that forgiveness, the worse it is for your health. And today we wanna look biblically at first why it’s important to release those things. And then practically, how do we release those things? How do we walk through forgiveness? Now? Now here’s what I want you to understand. Uh, sometimes we think of forgiveness and we think it’s all about the other person, but, but can you understand that forgiveness is not about the other person. Forgiveness is really about you and what you need to step into that, that unforgiveness is causing you to be so stuck in the past that you’re losing the potential that you have for your future. Forgiveness is huge in scripture. It’s a huge theme that we find the concept of forgiveness over 450 times in the Bible, the word forgiveness is in scripture about 150 times.
But then when you look at the, the concept of forgiveness, it’s over 450 times in scripture, old Testament and New Testament and Ephesians, Paul is writing about a new creation, that once we become a Christian, how we live and in writing about how we live, he gets into this topic of forgiveness. And in this topic of forgiveness, he helps us to understand why forgiveness is such a big deal. So if you’ve got a Bible, turn with me to Ephesians chapter four. We’re gonna start in verse 25. If you don’t have a Bible, you can fall along on the screen. And the sermon notes are always in the Cherry Hills mobile app. Ephesians chapter four, start in verse 25, Paul talking about being a new creation in Christ says therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor. For we are members of one another, be angry and do not sin.
Now it’s a fascinating verse right there. ’cause sometimes we think that, well, you’re never supposed to be angry. And scripture does say, do not be quick to anger. But the idea of never being angry is, is is not possible. You will get angry in this life. Uh, I’ve seen some of you drive, yes, you get angry in this life, but but what does it say connected to that? He says, be angry. He’s, he is not saying Don’t be angry. He’s saying you’re going to be angry. But when you are angry, he says, do not sin. But why is it that we get angry? Nobody gets angry because they’re just walking down the street and having a wonderful day, and they’re smelling the flowers and they’re feeling the sun. And that just makes them angry that that doesn’t happen. What makes us angry is that there’s some type of an injustice that exists and you are angry because of it.
Maybe it’s an injustice that’s come directly against you and that’s what makes you angry. Maybe it’s an injustice that simply exists in our culture or in our world, and that’s what makes you angry. But if you live, you will be angry. That’s what Paul’s helping us understand. He’s saying, you will be angry, but don’t let that anger lead you to sin. He says, do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil. Then when we take anger and we don’t resolve it, when it just stews and it just builds and we don’t fix that anger, what, what does Paul tell us? That it gives the devil a foothold in our life. It’s preventing what God wants to do in our future because we have undealt with anger in the present. We’re gonna see later when we look at the Lord’s prayer, this idea of daily dealing with our junk, with anger.
Paul says the same thing before the sun goes down, deal with it. Do something with it. He goes on to say, let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as good for building up as fits the occasion that it may give grace to those who hear and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God and Christ forgave. You see, forgiving he gets down to as this solution. Uh, but, but he points back to the problem that when we don’t forgive what happens without forgiveness, it leads to anger and clamor and slander and malice, all these terrible things that the way that we solve those things is through forgiveness.
Here’s a way to put it simply. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness, resentment, and anger always. And sometimes we think that that unforgiveness only breeds bitterness, resentment, and anger towards the person that we haven’t forgiven. But studies have found that’s not true. Studies have found that if you have one area in your life where there’s unforgiveness, that that one area will lead to resentment and bitterness and anger that overflows into every other area of your life and every other relationship in your life. So all of a sudden, I’m taking out my anger and my mouth and my resentment on my spouse when they had nothing to do with the hurt that I’ve got in my life that ultimately is incredibly destructive. Uh, look at this quote from John Hopkins, uh, one of the doctors there, and they said there’s an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed. Says Karen Schwartz, md, director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at the John Hopkins University, or excuse me, John Hopkins Hospital, talk about a title like that’s, how do you explain that to someone in a brief, uh, moment?
She says, chronic anger puts you into a fight or flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response. Those changes then increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels leading to improved health. Uh, what’s she’s saying? She’s saying that, that look, that unforgiveness isn’t just kept in a box in one small area of your life. No, that unforgiveness spills over into every area of your life, including your physical health. So when we talk about forgiveness, here’s the thing, it’s really easy. Even if you right now in your life have unforgiveness, it’s easier for you to acknowledge that forgiveness is important and forgiveness is valuable. It’s just hard then to decide to forgive. So let’s pause for a second and, and talk about what forgiveness is not because I think it’s easier to to proceed forward when we recognize what we’re not asking ourselves to do. Now, let’s look at what forgiveness is not. It’s not discounting the pain. So maybe you’re in here and you say, but you don’t understand. And you’re right, I probably don’t. You’ve experienced gut wrenching pain in your life, maybe very deep rooted betrayal by someone who was supposed to love you and care for you. Maybe it was a spouse, maybe it was a parent, maybe it was a coworker. Maybe it was a spiritual figure at a church.
Forgiveness is not saying that that pain that hurt is not real. It’s not ignoring that pain. It’s not discounting that pain. Forgiveness is not pretending your pain didn’t happen. I think that’s the, the challenge with this lie of, hey, just forgive and forget. If you’ve experienced tremendous pain at the hands of somebody else, you’ll never forget that. You’ll never forget that for the rest of your life. It will always be in the back of your brain. Well, I remember when, I remember when, if forgiveness is not saying that you have to pretend that didn’t happen. No, it’s acknowledging that happened. It’s dealing with the pain and the hurt and choosing to move forward. Forgiveness is not about what the offender deserves. It’s not saying that that person deserves forgiveness. It’s not saying, Hey, I have to forgive because that’s what the other person that has wronged me deserves in their life.
No, forgiveness is about what you deserve. To take that hurt and that pain and set it aside and move forward and, and not allow that hurt and that pain to define every day going forward for the rest of your life. Forgiveness is not saying that you should keep toxic relationships. Uh, Gary Thomas has a great book called When to Walk Away, talks about toxic relationships and forgiveness is important in every relationship regardless of how toxic, but, but forgiveness does not automatically mean that now you’re opening the door for that person to come back into your life. Sometimes it happens, sometimes forgiveness leads to redemption and reconciliation and it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s not guaranteed. Sometimes there’s people in your life that you need to keep out of your life, but you still should forgive that person. Lisa Hurst, who’s a amazing biblical scholar and teacher, she writes this, she says, forgiveness.
It isn’t giving permission to the other person to continue to hurt you. Forgiveness actually isn’t even for the other person. Forgiveness is the only way for you to sever the suffering. There are certain types of forgiveness that that we have to practice every single day. If you’re in a marriage that forgiveness is just a natural part of it. It’s a natural part of it because you are a sinner and you marry the sinner. And so forgiveness has to be a norm. If you’re a parent and have children, forgiveness is going to be a part of that equation going both ways. If you have coworkers, if you work with humans, forgiveness is a natural part of it. But there occasionally in life is a piece of forgiveness that feels impossible. Something so terrible so wrong has happened to you that you say, I could never forgive that.
And can I just tell you that oftentimes you can’t and your own power with your own ability, forgive those really, really big terrible things that have come against you. And yet here’s what we find both in scripture and in story after story after story, that when we invite God through the power of His Holy Spirit into the equation, things that seem impossible to ever forgive are in fact possible. There’s an amazing story about Mary Johnson and osha Israel, radical forgiveness. Mary Johnson had her son who’s in high school murdered and she dealt with that for a long time. The anger, the malice, the resentment. But she was a believer. She loved Jesus. She had a community surrounding her and she started to be convicted that she needed to forgive. Now that seems impossible on the surface to forgive the person who murdered your son. And yet God led her to go have a conversation face-to-face with a man that killed her son. Uh, we’re gonna listen to an audio clip of Mary Johnson and the killer of her son O’Shea Israel. It’s just an audio clip. And so I want you to focus on the words. It’s from N P R when they did a story court. And she doesn’t talk about her faith, but it’s her faith that led her to this point. And let’s take a listen to a conversation between the two of them together.
You and I met at Stillwater Prison. I wanted to know if you were in the same mindset of what I remember from court where I wanted to go over and hurt you, but you were not that 16 year old. You were a grown man. I shared with you about my son
And he became human to me. You know, when I met you, it was like, okay, this guy is real. And then when it was time to go, you broke down and started shedding tears. And the initial thing to do was just try to hold you up as best I can. Just hug you like I would my own mother. You know,
After you left the room, I begin to say, I just hugged the man that murdered my son. And I instantly knew that all that anger and animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you, I knew it was over, that I had totally forgiven you
As far as the receiving forgiveness from you. Sometimes I still don’t know how to take it because I haven’t totally forgiven myself yet. It’s something that I’m learning from you. I won’t say that I have learned yet because it’s still a process that I’m going through.
I treat you as I would treat my son. And our relationship is beyond belief. We live next door to one another.
Yeah. So you could see what I’m doing, you know, firsthand. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we actually bump into each other all the time, leaving in and outta the house. And our conversations, they come from, boy, how come you ain’t called over here to check on me in a couple days? <laugh>, you ain’t even asked me if I need my garbage to go out. Ah-huh. I find those things funny because it’s a relationship with a mother for real. Well,
My natural son is no longer here. I didn’t see him graduate. You know you’re going to college. I’ll have the opportunity to see you graduate. I didn’t see him get married. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to experience that with you.
Just to hear you say those things and to be in my life in the manner that which you are is my motivation, it motivates me to make sure that I stay on the right path. You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it despite how much pain I caused you, it’s amazing.
I know it’s not an easy thing, you know, to be able to share our story together, even with us sitting here looking at each other right now, I know it’s not an easy thing. So I admire that you can do this.
I love you lady.
I love you too, son.
I mean everything about that seems impossible, doesn’t it? That you could not just forgive the murder of your child, but then so forgive them and let God work inside that relationship where God redeems something. It doesn’t replace what was lost and stolen, but it redeems and reconciles something new to where Mary who lost her biological son now inherits a new son. It’s radical and it’s only possible through the power of God and the Holy Spirit. Corey 10 boom, who during World War II wrote the hiding place talks about hiding Jews from Nazi Germany. And then eventually she gets caught and her and her dad and her sister all end up in concentration camps and her dad ends up dying and her sister ends up dying. And Corey is the only one that lives. And here’s what she would write later. She would say forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment.
In the handcuffs of hatred. It is the power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. So how then do we forgive? How do we move forward? If I recognize that that’s something I need in my life, how is it possible? There’s two stages. Psychologists will tell us for forgiveness, two stages. The first stage of forgiveness is decisional forgiveness. The second stage of forgiveness is emotional forgiveness. Here’s how one psychiatrist describes the difference. He says this, decisional forgiveness involves deciding to forgive a personal offense and letting go of angry and resentful thoughts and feelings towards the person who is wronged you. So decisional forgiveness is really an intellectual decision. I am going to forgive, I’m going to move forward. Another two. This is the first step and by far the easier of the two. He says, emotional forgiveness involves replacing the negative emotions with positive feelings like compassion, sympathy, and empathy.
Research shows that emotional forgiveness is where most health benefits lie. Uh, that’s from Everett Worthington. Uh, he’s got his PhD, he’s psychiatrist. He’s the chair, uh, of the Virginia Commonwealth University Psychology Department. And what’s fascinating about Everett Worthington, Everett Worthington is the foremost expert on the scientific study behind forgiveness. He’s written over 300 articles. He has 30 books. And why is it that he’s so passionate about forgiveness? His mother was murdered and he was a Christian. And in trying to reconcile scripture and what God was calling him to do with the pain that he had in his life, it it set him on this trajectory where he then would study forgiveness as a life calling and do research on forgiveness. And oftentimes what he found when he was studying forgiveness and looking at forgiveness and the benefits of forgiveness that so often it was rooted in scripture, he came up with this acronym called reach saying, if you want to participate in practice in forgiveness, here’s his steps that you take in order to achieve it.
Reach the R for reach stands for recall that you remember the hurt that was done to you. As objectively as you can notice, he’s not saying Forget it, ignore it, pretend that it didn’t happen. No, he says, first start with the pain. Then the E is to empathize. Try to understand the viewpoint of the person who wronged. Do not. Now let me unpack that for a second. Uh, because there’s this whole spectrum of pain and forgiveness. And so if you are in a a healthy relationship, you are going to be wronged in a healthy relationship. And part of forgiveness in that healthy relationship is trying to understand the perspective of the other person. But then there’s also a spectrum of pain and hurt that comes against you that is so radical and so deep. And you say, well, wait a second, how could I try and understand the viewpoint of the person?
And what he’s saying is that you don’t have to understand the viewpoint of the action of, of them doing that terrible thing. But he’s saying that you should try and have empathy that everybody in this world has heart and pain that hurt people, hurt people. And he’s not saying that, that you need to be empathetic to the action that they took. He’s saying, but you should be empathetic to recognize, hey, they’ve had wrong done to them. The A is altruism thinking about a time that you hurt someone and were forgiven then offering the gift of forgiveness to the person who hurt you. That it’s straight from scripture over and over again. God is telling us that we should forgive because God first forgave us. So it’s recognizing that just as we were unworthy of God’s forgiveness, so too are others unworthy of our forgiveness. And we should give it anyway.
The sea is committing publicly forgiving the person who wronged you. Now, now recognize that the publicly forgiving the person doesn’t always have to be to that person, but it’s taking a moment where you say, I’m going to find someone that I’m going to tell them what’s going on and I’m going to commit to that person that I am working towards forgiveness. It it could be that you have some terrible thing that that maybe a parent has done to you. It’s not saying that you need to start by going to that person and saying, I forgive you. It’s saying start by going to a loved one, a friend, a confidant, and saying, I want you to know that I’ve been carrying this resentment, this unforgiveness in my life, and I’m telling you that I’m choosing to forgive and I’m gonna start down this process of going through forgiveness.
The H is holding on. It’s not forgetting the hurt ’cause you’ll never forget the hurt. But it’s reminding yourself that you made the choice to forgive. And here’s what he’d say. He’d say that reach is not a one-time thing. That the decision to heal that decisional forgiveness is a one-time thing. But emotional forgiveness is a process. It takes a long time. It’s an active daily pursuit. And you know what’s interesting about that? Scripture tells us the exact same thing in the Lord’s prayer. Jesus gives us the model of how we should pray. He’s not saying that we need to say exactly those words every single day. He’s saying this is the type of prayer that we should say every day. And so pause for a second and think, if Jesus has given us a model prayer of what we need to incorporate into our daily habits, what are those elements that he would include in there?
Probably if I sat down and came up with a list, this isn’t what I would’ve come up with. But here’s what Jesus says, Matthew chapter six, verse nine, pray then like this. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors and lead us notation, but deliver us from evil. And then that’s really the end of the prayer. But Jesus continues and he says, for if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses. Now here’s what’s interesting about the Lord’s Prayer. It’s meant to be daily. How do we know that? ’cause he says, give us this day our daily broke.
It doesn’t say, Hey, God, if you would provide for me for the next month, for the next year, for the next 25 years, no. Jesus saying that part of prayer is a full reliance upon God every single day. It’s committing yourself that day to say, God, I, I wanna rely on you. And so it’s every single day telling God, God forgive me of my debts and also help me to forgive those who have sinned against me. Forgiveness is these two pieces to it. Decisional forgiveness. It’s in your head, I am going to forgive. I’m gonna tell someone that I’ve chosen to forgive. But then there’s the emotional side and it’s hard and it’s painful and it’s a process and it takes a daily commitment to it. But can I tell you the reason that God wants us to forgive is because he recognizes that the longer I hold on to that unforgiveness, the longer I hold on to that pain, that bitterness, that malice, that anger, the worse it is for me.
And it’s really hard to forgive. But by constantly pursuing it through God and through the power of the Holy Spirit, I can take something that is poisoning me and slowly begin to give it over to God and release it. And all of a sudden that thing that I thought was compartmentalized into one area of my life, I will find healing in every area of my life because I let go. We hear that phrase, forgive and forget. It’s not in scripture. It’s not what I’m telling you to do. I’m not telling you to completely forget any wrongdoing that’s ever happened to you, but I am telling you that for your sake, for your future, for all that God has called you to be, forgiveness is a part of the equation. The very first week when we kicked off breathing underwater, this sermon series on mental health and and how we can uh, look at different areas in our of our life of unhealth and fixed those things, we ended with two questions.
And question number one is, do you want to be healed? And question number two is, what’s your next step? And can I tell you for unforgiveness, it’s the same thing? Do do you want to be healed? It starts by saying, okay, then I’m going to forgive. And then if so, what is that next step? How do you work through that process? Forgiveness is not about the other person. It’s about you being awe that God has created you and me to be Let’s pray Heavenly Father. Lord, I know that there are people in the room right now that have unforgiveness in their heart that they can’t ever imagine or fathom letting go. And I know that they’ve experienced more betrayal and hurt and pain than I could possibly fathom or imagine. And yet I also know that you tell us clearly in scripture that in your kingdom, the kingdom of God, there is no such thing as unforgiveness God, that you want us to experience the fullness of this life that you have for us. And unforgiveness prevents that from being true. It breeds resentment and anger and malice. And so, God, I pray for this, people holding on tight that today can be the day through the power of the Holy Spirit, that they can let go and choose to forgive. We pray all these things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.