The Practice of Forgiveness

To begin, I would ask for each of us to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider whether there is anyone in our live with whom we have un-forgiveness. Before making the decision to go through the exercises, please take a moment and consider the following facts and statistics, review the Biblical principles, and then read the quotations. When you are through, consider through prayer and thought, whether you are ready to begin the process. If you are not, it is completely acceptable. Remember…in the Kingdom of God, when it comes to forgiveness, there is plenty of room for “can’t,” but there isn’t any room for “won’t.” Just be honest about where you are on the journey. Next week, we will begin the exercises. This will take us five weeks to get through the five steps. May Jesus, the Good and Tender Shepherd lead us through this valley of dry bones and hurt feelings.  Pastor Jeff

Facts and statistics

  • Americans see an increasing need for forgiveness, particularly at the community and societal levels.  (from a 2010 survey of Americans conducted by StrategyOne)
    • I need more forgiveness in my personal life–62% agree
    • We need more forgiveness in the industry or field in which I currently work–72% agree
    • We need more forgiveness in my community–83% agree
    • We need more forgiveness in America–90% agree
    • We need more forgiveness in the world–90% agree

Retrieved from: http://fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/resources/attachment/%5Bcurrent-date%3Atiny%5D/Survey%20of%20Love%20and%20Forgiveness%20in%20American%20Society%20Report.pdf

  • One factor that may influence the effects that cumulative stress exposure has on health is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the release of negative—and the potential enhancement of positive—feelings, emotions, and behaviors toward an offender (Enright et al., 1998). Research has demonstrated that forgiveness is associated with several mental health outcomes, including less anxiety, depression, and other major psychiatric disorders (Hirsch et al., 2011; Lin et al., 2004; Ryan and Kumar, 2005; Toussaint and Cheadle, 2009a; Toussaint et al., 2008). Forgiveness is also associated with better physical health and with physiological profiles that underlie good health. In this context, forgiveness predicts fewer physical health symptoms, better overall physical health (Lawler et al., 2005; Seawell et al., 2014), healthier cardiovascular responses to stress (Lawler et al., 2003), and lower rates of cardiovascular disease (Friedberg et al., 2007; Toussaint and Cheadle, 2009b; Waltman et al., 2009). As can be expected, forgiveness is thus also associated with lower rates of mortality (Krause and Hayward, 2013; Toussaint et al., 2012). 

Retrieved from: http://www.uclastresslab.org/pubs/Toussaint_JHP_2016.pdf

Underlying Biblical principles

  • I am able to forgive anyone of any offense, as God requires of me, because I have already experienced the complete and lavish forgiveness that God has given me.
  • Forgiveness is not merely a duty to be carried out because God commanded it—it is an emancipation of my heart and a pathway to receive love and joy.
  • Behind my rationalization for my failure to forgive is my desire to judge the offender. But the role of judge is God’s, not mine, and he capably and faithfully administers justice.
  • When I judge someone else, I reveal the hypocrisy of ignoring my own guilt, and I bring God’s judgment on myself.
  • In forgiving, I not only cease the negative act of judgment; I also act positively to bless the person.  When I love and bless instead of retaliating and cursing, I demonstrate the merciful nature of Christ, and my soul grows lighter.

Helpful Quotations

  • “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”  –C.S. Lewis
  • “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”        –Christian author Anne Lamott
  • “God cannot give the gift [of love] so long as bitterness and resentment have slammed shut the door of the heart, and unforgiveness stands sentinel at the door.”  –Catherine Marshall
  • “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”  –Billy Graham
  • “Forgiveness is the giving, and therefore the receiving, of life.” –George MacDonald
  • “We win by tenderness.  We conquer by forgiveness.” –Frederick W. Robertson
  • “To be a Christian is to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.” –C.S. Lewis
  • “Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right; it makes you free.” –Stormie O’Martian

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