Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More on Sunday's Sermon

I mentioned in the post yesterday that sometimes when I am preaching I am still working on the sermon. Actually, often I am still thinking about it on Sunday and Monday. That was especially true this week, especially in light of some comments and emails about the sermon. If you didn't get a chance to hear the sermon, you might want to listen, otherwise this may not make sense. It should be available soon at:

The number of comments and emails this week have been about the invitation I gave. We offered people cards to take and write the names of people that they needed to speak the words "I forgive you" to. There are people in our lives that we hold grudges against and we need to forgive them to release them and, perhaps more importantly, release ourselves from the baggage of not forgiving. I warned people that this work is often strange and wondrous. When you call someone up and say "I forgive you," the response is often, "For what?" Often they have no idea what you hold against them. Maybe they don't remember any more. Maybe they never knew they offended you. Maybe, in retrospect, they never really didn't anything to offend you.

This seems to be exactly where the hang up is. Someone walked up to me during the closing hymn and asked "Isn't this sort of arrogant?" Someone else asked in a little more subtle way, "Am I being judgmental to that person in assuming the discourse was their fault?" My answer, yes and yes. BUT... that doesn't let us off the hook. There is something larger going on here. If we are holding onto a grudge, if we haven't forgiven someone, it really no longer matters whose fault it was. Let me try it this way: Yes, to offer forgiveness to someone who hasn't asked for it may be arrogant but that sin may not be as grievous as having an unspoken grudge against them.

Matthew 18:15-16 gives us scriptural guidance for dealing with people when they have offended us or sinned against us,

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses."

But, realistically, we don't often do that. Most of us don't like conflict so we just let it pass and sometimes that seems to work but sometimes it just grows inside us. We can, at some point, decide to let it go but, if we never go back and address the person, is it really taken care of? Maybe. But I am not so sure. I think there are a lot of cases where we need to care of the messiness of admitting we held the grudge in the first place. We may need to work through the issue, especially if there is any hope of restoring a relationship.

Isaiah 43:25

I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

The note for that verse in the Wesley Study Bible reads, "God not only declares forgiveness and willingness to forget, but declares that it is "for my sake." Forgiveness is not a favor done for the other but is needed by the forgiver as well to restore wholeness to relationship." (Wesley Study Bible, Abingdon Press, p. 867)

As I said in the sermon, forgiveness is tough stuff. It is sticky and messy.

Have you taken the invitation? Has it been messy? Are you still struggling with the idea? I would love to hear your comments below.


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