Asbury United Methodist Church
Love - Share - Tell - Serve

January 3, 2018

Have you ever considered how life-changing and restorative the properties of forgiveness can bring to a wounded soul?

          Quite a few years ago, I worked with a woman who spent a period of time walking through that proverbial dark lonesome valley.  She was filled with anger, resentment and bitterness.

          Why?  It was because this woman’s husband was a scoundrel and she had gone through a contentious divorce.  But, then one day I noticed that her entire mood had shifted.

          “You seem to be on the other side of things now,” I remarked.  She replied, “I sure am!  Life became brighter once I decided to lose two hundred pounds!”

          What she was referencing was the decision to set her former husband free.  In other words, she made the choice to forgive and move on. 

This decision transformed her life!  What it came down to was that she no longer felt value in carrying her bitterness around.

          “Then Peter approached him and said to him, ‘My Lord, if my brother should wrong me, how many times should I forgive him?  Up to seven times?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I do not tell you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven, seven times (Matthew 18:21-22 Aramaic text).’”

          Why did Jesus say, “Up to seventy times seven, seven times?”  In his culture, this phrase meant a limitless number of times.

          Of all the wonderful teachings that Jesus offered us, perhaps love and forgiveness were stressed most.  Maybe this is why the Gospel message is so liberating and inspiring.

          It is a powerful thing to take one’s life back!  In his famed prayer, our Lord teaches, “And release (forgive) us of our trespasses as we release (forgive) those who have trespassed against us (Matthew 6:12 Aramaic text).”

          Yes, I know!  This can be very difficult to pull off, especially if we have been handed an incredible wrong!

          How in the Universe can we come up with the power to forgive?  What about the unforgivable offense that has been handed to me?

          It’s not fair!  Why should I release someone who has not even apologized for what they have done?

          And, I cannot forgive because I don’t want to forgive!  I am never going to get over this!

          Yes, I know!  I get it!  But how do any of these statements restore us to peace and wholeness?

          To examine Jesus’ intent for us to release those who’ve trespassed against us a little more closely, we need to look at some terms of finance.  We hold on to grudges and resentments because we have interest in reaping some sort of dividend.

          To put a finer point on things, we refuse to release because somehow, we feel there is value in holding on to the grudge.  I know…it’s not rational and we may not even realize that we are doing it.

          And, it is possible to cling to our bitterness until it makes us physically sick.  We’ve all heard the old adage that holding on to resentment corrodes the pot that it is carried in.

          Oh, and I like the one that holding on to a grudge is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die!  What to do?  What to do?

          Well, we need some help!  We need a savior and thank the Lord we have one.

          The Divine, Holy Other said, “Turn to me and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10 Aramaic text).”

          It is in turning to God and releasing our hurt to the One who knit us together in our mother’s womb that we are set free.  Whoa…a hymn just ran through my head!

You gently call me into your presence guiding me by your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through your eyes
I’m captured by your Holy calling
Set me apart, I know your drawing me to yourself
Lead me Lord I pray

Take me, Mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand 

(Potter’s Hand, Darlene Zschech, 1998) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBnyosHtF2A

 

          Our path out of misery is to be totally captivated by a better option, a better offer than bitterness.  And, there is Christ…standing there…arms open wide…waiting patiently for us to come to our senses.  And, he is offering love, joy and healing. 

          Once we lose our two hundred pounds, we notice that we are breathing again…and we recognize that we were created for peace, love, joy and hope!  This is the essential nature imputed within our souls by a power far greater than vengeance. 

          The grace Christ is offering is nothing shorter than the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within us.  We are gently led beyond our limited emotional state to discover the boundless energy of the human spirit that is divinely inspired. 

          “Not by might, nor by power, but my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 4:6 KJV).” 

          Forgiveness through the power of Christ is the antivenom for faltering relationships, adverse situations and even self-hatred.  Forgiveness is compassion in action. 

          “And, free us from our offenses even as we have freed our offenders.” 

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