Questions about Forgiveness: How?

Jason Micheli —  March 12, 2013 — 5 Comments

70X7

This past weekend as part of our Lenten Sermon Series on Idolatry, Counterfeit Gods, I taught from Matthew 18. That’s the chapter where you’ll find Jesus’ double-dog dare command that we should forgive not once, not twice, not even seven times but just shy of 500 times.

Which is Jesus’ Jewish way of saying: forgive all the time. 

The sermon’s subject elicited several dozen questions from folks who heard it or who’ve since read it online.

Questions about forgiveness.

Here’s one question I got:

‘I know Christians are supposed to forgive. I know Jesus wants us to ‘put the ledger down’ as you said on Sunday. What I never hear, have never heard, in church is exactly HOW I’m supposed to do it. How do you go about forgiving someone who’s wronged you?’

That is a very, very good question.

Greg Jones, in Forgiving as We’ve Been Forgiven, outlines six steps in the process of forgiveness. He likens them to a dance where each step is integrally related to the next,  inseparable from what came before it. Forgiveness, like dancing, takes grace.

1. Truth-Telling

We become willing to speak truthfully and patiently about the conflicts that have arisen. 

Appropriately, this is the lead in to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18. Jesus’ prescription of 70×7 forgiveness and his parable of the unmerciful servant are prompted by questions of confronting someone who’s wronged you.

 2. Acknowledging Anger

Both people must acknowledge the existence of anger and bitterness as well as a desire to overcome them. 

3. Concern for the Other

We summon up a concern for the well-being of the other as a child of God. 

4. Recognizing, Remembering and Repenting

We truthfully acknowledge our own complicity in the conflict, remember that we have been forgiven in the past and take the step to repentance. 

5. Commitment to Change

We make a commitment to work to change whatever caused and continues to perpetuate our conflicts. 

6. Hope for the Future

We confess our yearning for the possibility of complete reconciliation. 

 

Of course, these steps reveal how, like dancing, forgiveness doesn’t just take grace.

It takes two people.

You only get but so far in the Jones’ six steps if your partner prefers to remain a wallflower. 

 

 

Jason Micheli

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5 responses to Questions about Forgiveness: How?

  1. Foregiveness takes a lot of prayer especially when the other person is not a believer. Pray for God to change you as you by faith forgive the person. Phil 1:6 – And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (NLT) . It isn’t easy and it takes time, but over time looking back you will see the healing.

  2. There are situations where the person you need to forgive is not around and does not feel the need for your forgiveness. It seems to me that it then becomes between you and God. You still must forgive the person who has hurt you. It is possible. All things are possible with God.

    • I agree completely, Ann. I think Christians are simply to believe in the possibility of forgiveness, for anyone or in any situation and do what they can towards it. Leave the rest to God.

  3. I completely agree that grace is the only thing that makes forgiveness possible and that it takes a lot of prayer and can take a lot of time. But, I also think that it is evident from the question, that this person is suffering and frustrated, and that, in that case, they need more than what they have already heard about grace and time. They can at least be given the reassurance that what they are experiencing can be redemptive, because the path to forgiveness can be our own personal participation in the death and resurrection.

    • That’s very true and a good point to add, frame things by. Hell, there goes my idea for my Palm Sunday sermon. You’ve stolen it.

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