Sermon by Dr. E. Dale Locke
Series: Letting Go, Week 1 – “Letting Go”
- None of us can ever check forgiveness off our life list, as if we were done with it. All of us need to regularly re-work on the art of forgiveness. Why is that?
- Read Matthew 6:9-15:
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
- Read verse 14-15 again. How do you feel about what Jesus said here? What questions or concerns does this raise?
- Pastor Dale told the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League baseball player, and of Branch Rickey, who recruited him. Jackie endured constant insults, threats, and unfair treatment; yet he chose to live by the advice he had received from one of his Christian mentors who told him, “Exploding in anger is not the Christian answer to injustice.” What is the Christian answer to injustice?
- Read Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Peter seemed to think his suggestion of “seven times” was generous. What was Jesus’ point when he gave the number seventy-seven?
- Pastor Dale said: “Forgiveness is the one thing we can do that successfully unchains us from our past, invites God’s peace into our present, and gives Him the power to shape our lives into His glorious future.” What strikes you about that statement? What aspects of it speak most strongly to you personally?
Forgiveness is not Excusing
- If our conscience is working, there is a moral law within us that tells our heart when something isn’t right. We aren’t supposed to suppress that by simply excusing wrong behavior as if it were OK. God wants us to stay tuned to our inner sense of justice and injustice. So how can we forgive someone, without excusing them?
Forgiveness is not Forgetting
- Though we often speak of the need to “forgive and forget” – in real life, it is seldom possible to actually forget how someone has hurt you. In fact, Pastor Dale said that forgiveness is what is required when we can’t forgive. Explain how forgiving is different from forgetting.
Forgiveness is not Reconciling
- Forgiveness is something we can do in our own heart regardless of what the other person decides to do. Part of the beauty of forgiveness is that it doesn’t depend on the other person. How is reconciliation different from forgiveness?
- Pastor Dale said, “Forgiveness doesn’t free our offender, it frees us from our offender.” Explain what he meant by that.
- Jesus is the only person who never needed forgiveness. Even though He lived a sinless life, He never withheld forgiveness from others. How can Jesus’ example help you when you’re struggling to forgive someone?
- Lewis Smedes, the author of the book The Art of Forgiveness said, “Jesus was teaching us that when you forgive someone, you are dancing to the rhythm of the divine heartbeat. God invented forgiveness as the only true way to keep His romance with the human race alive.” What did he mean by that?
- When Jesus said on the cross, “Forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing,” he showed that sometimes people need forgiveness, even if they don’t realize it. Pastor Dale explained that ignorance of our need for forgiveness does not equal innocence. Take some time this week to search your heart and think through your own life, asking God to show you where you might have hurt someone and may not even be aware of your need for forgiveness.