(Wednesdays are Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus. Today we continue our current series- On the Road to Forgiveness.) So far in this series, we’ve looked at what is at the heart of even needing forgiveness- sin. We’ve looked at the difference between forgiving and forgetting. We’ve looked at what else forgiveness is not. This week, we look more closely at what gets in the way of forgiveness- the roadblocks if you will.
We all sometimes say- “I know I should forgive, but I just can’t find the strength to go through with it.” We all also sometimes say- “I know I should forgive; I just don’t WANT to!” Why IS that? What gets in the way of true forgiveness? Let’s look at 4 main roadblocks to forgiveness:
1. Lack of responsibility. We have a hard time owning up to our own failures and shortcomings.
And if we can’t see past our own faults and mistakes, how can we possibly move toward forgiveness of others? We 1st have to be able to admit that we’re not perfect, that we’re capable of hurting others.
Matthew 7:3-6- “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Why do YOU think it’s so easy to notice the problems in others but miss them in ourselves?
2. Unresolved emotions. Hurt, fear, bitterness, revenge, anger, and hatred are major hindrances to forgiveness. But the appeal that those emotions have is a perverted one at best. We tend to like the pure adrenaline rush that comes with our plans of retribution. We know it’s wrong…but it feels SO good!
Have you ever been afraid of forgiveness? We often fear forgiveness because we think it will look like approval of someone else’s actions, that we are tacitly giving them permission to do it again. We fear that forgiving makes us vulnerable. Have you ever been so mad at someone that you “couldn’t see straight”? The Bible says- “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31) An unforgiving heart is good soil for anger. Anger gives birth to resentment, bitterness and hostility.
Have you ever plotted something bad against someone else? The Bible says, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” (Proverbs 24:17) Revenge makes us want the offender to suffer the same discomfort we did. This does an end run around forgiveness. Don’t seek revenge- leave room for God.
Have you ever thought: Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord…but only if He acts on my behalf? God has more power to pour out wrath than we ever could. So- let God do the heavy lifting. Let Him do all that marvelous smiting. The Bible says, “’It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) Warning: this approach doesn’t always turn out the way we might like. God has this nasty habit of extending mercy and forgiving people!
So what DO we do about those unresolved feelings? The Bible says, “But what I tell you is this: love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so can you be like children of your heavenly Father, who makes his sun rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the honest and the dishonest. If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect? Surely the tax-gatherers do as much as that. And if you greet only your brothers, what is there extraordinary about that? Even the heathen do as much. There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.” (Matthew 5:44-45) If we refuse to let go of these feelings, we’re hanging on to destructive forces that are in direct contrast to forgiveness. These emotions and forgiveness simply can’t co-exist.
3. Thinking we can do it on our own. That “pioneer spirit”, or as I call it “bootstrap theology”, is a marvelously human quality. But the Bible says, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” (Matthew 9:5-6)
It also says “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:20-21)
Only God can truly forgive. That’s the secret to real forgiveness- it’s divine.
4. Misconceptions about forgiveness. As we talked about last week, we struggle with forgiveness because we misunderstand it. If we believe the lies about forgiveness, it’s natural we would avoid it at all costs. But the truth sets us free. Author William Meninger said: “Forgiveness…is not forgetting. It is not condoning or absolving. Neither is it pretending nor something done for the sake of the offender. It is not a thing we just do by a brutal act of the will. It does not entail a loss of identity, specialness, or face. It does not release the offenders from obligations they may or may not recognize. An understanding of these things will go a long way towards helping people enter into the forgiveness process.”
Forgiveness requires courage and humility. Without those, we run away from the situation, hoping it will go away. Absence doesn’t heal; time doesn’t heal- God does the healing.
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- The Spiritual Gift of Reading Bad Ha