Holy Spirit and forgiveness

Today we continue learning more about the Holy Spirit – the 3rd person of the Trinity. Today we look at his role in forgiveness. Forgiveness is a hard thing to do; some would say it is an impossibility. Our most common response is that “I do not want to forgive that person, I do not want to let the person off the hook, I want my Pound of flesh.” The usual response to an injustice done against us is to seek revenge. That was the pound of flesh reference to Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice play.  Maori have a word for it: Utu which commonly means revenge but actually means to restore the balance by exacting something from the offender.  Other cultures, particularly Melanesian, refer to the concept of ‘payback’.In the Old Testament we read of payback. An injustice done, vengeance wrought on the offenders and the offender’s tribe. Even the Old Testament “eye for an eye’ has often been read as the right to vengeance rather than a limitation of vengeance. In New Zealand we see the same seeking of vengeance by our colonial forebears in the illegal taking of Maori land for perceived injustices – the taking of Taranaki land and shameful situation at Parihaka for example. Christianity however says nothing about authorizing such vengeance and calls for the exact opposite. It calls for us to turn the other cheek, to give our coat when someone takes our shirt. 

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

 

We are to forego our right for vengeance and offer the white feather of peace.  We are to give our right to vengeance to God and allow him to deal with it .

 

Romans 12: 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In other words, Christianity calls for us to do the impossible. It calls for us to be counter cultural and not exact some sort of retribution on those who have hurt or harmed us. But it is not about us doing this forgiveness in our own strength. If it was in our own strength, it would not happen, could not happen. God gives us the supernatural to allow us to forgive. Jesus Christ and His comforting spirit -- the Holy Spirit -- are a powerful force for helping us to forgive. Forgiveness is part and parcel of how we are to walk as Christians but we do not do this alone, the Holy Spirit empowers us to forgive.  We need to start the process of forgiving others, and then the Holy Spirit will come alongside us in that act. Interestingly it is when we forgive that we are truly God’s children. It says in Matthew 5:44-45

44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

This is the truth of the matter. When we do not forgive, it does not hurt the offender, unforgiveness actually hurts us. I give you 2 reasons: The first is outlined in scripture:

Matthew 6:14-15For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. {15} But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

God forgives us to the measure that we forgive others.  The Lord’s prayer: forgive us as we forgive others… A root of bitterness can grow up in us because of unforgiveness. This root can be buried deep inside our heart and can block the flow of God’s love from penetrating deep within our heart. It also blocks the flow of God through us, making it difficult for us to experience God’s love for others. The second reason is also a truth: Unforgiveness is a major cause of depression, many people have unforgiveness but are not even aware of it because it is buried so deep inside. Sometimes people do and say things that hurt us very deeply. Sometimes we are hurt by the ones that are closest to us. Sometimes we are hurt in childhood, at the most vulnerable time of life, leaving wounds that we think are healed but they have left scars that still remind us of the wound. It has been said that unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison and hoping the other person will die. Lewis B. Smedes wrote in his book, Forgive and Forget, "When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumour out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself."  

Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Let me show you a couple of stories
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VNJe7snS2k Bud Welsh story - Oklahoma bombing  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2_OOaP763k Forgiveness of Green River mass murderer 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5cOEBkSfvo Kathy Sanders story – loss of grandchildren in Oklahoma bombing

 I want us to dwell on this concept of forgiveness, forgiveness empowered by the Holy Spirit. I am going put up a prayer which you may want to say to God silently about those whom you have yet to forgive.  I do not need to know what that offence was, that is between you and God.

Prayer of forgiveness:

Father, even as you have freely forgiven me, I choose to release  ----------------- to you. I forgive …………………..for sinning against me. I forgive ……………………specifically for sinning against me in these ways (be specific). I ask in turn that your sovereign grace and justice would come to bear upon that person. Be Lord over ……………………, even as I ask you to become Lord and Healer over my wounded heart. Continue to heal my heart, even as you bring up the residual emotions and reactions not yet wholly known to me. 

 

Help me quickly to face these realities at the foot of the Cross knowing that I have been forgiven, but am still being healed.[1]



[1] Andrew Comiskey Living Waters NZ 140