Forgive one another

Here is the message from yesterdays worship gathering. This morning we are continuing our series Scattered and Gathered looking at the two natures of the church. Scattered into the world to be the hands and feet of Jesus bringing blessing to the world. Gathered to worship, pray, do life together, and build community with each other.

Today we continue looking at the various one anothers in the Scriptures. We have looked at continuing to meet with one another, encourage one another, and last week we covered the every crucial love one another.

Today we are building on last week and our discussion of loving of one another, with probably the most challenging, and difficult one after loving one another which is to forgive one another as well as a biblical way of handing conflict.

Scripture all over the place talks about this very very important ideal of forgiveness and conflict resolution between believers. This morning I’m going to share one Scripture briefly as a springboard into the main Scripture for the morning. The main Scripture is one that the Church of the Brethren, the denomination that Veritas is officially a part of, has considered as hugely important in the life of the faith community.

So let’s turn to Colossians 3:13 and read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Colossae. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The section that this Scripture is a part of revolves around what it means to live a holy life. Paul talks about things like the old nature including things like rage, malice, slander, lying, impurity, and filthy language. He lays out a list of things that a follower of Jesus should put to death, but then he also lays out a list of what a follower of Jesus should seek to embody in their life. One such ideal is the ideal to forgive one another.

I love that Paul roots this command not in our feelings, our will, our desire, or our strength. Paul, just like we talked about last week when it comes to love, roots the command to forgive in Jesus/God. Just as Jesus went first in loving us, so that we should love one another, the Apostle Paul says we should forgive each other because God has forgiven us. In fact in some places within Scripture it actually says that if we don’t forgive a brother or sister that the Lord won’t forgive us. That is how serious this ideal of forgiveness really is.

The Lord has graciously forgiven us of much greater crimes that we have committed against him, then what others have committed against us. I’m not making whatever you might have gone through, or whatever you might have against someone, the unforgiveness that you are carrying around with you. Some of us probably have been seriously wronged or hurt from someone who professes the name of Jesus. I truly get that. But if you haven’t forgiven that person, you are the one who is living in jail not the other person. To forgive them doesn’t mean that it was okay what they did to you; it means that you realize that you have been forgiven much by Jesus, so you in turn need to forgive others. That doesn’t mean that it is easy to do. It is probably one of the hardest things this side of heaven.

Let me tell you a story of someone who forgave because they realized that they were forgiven much. Corrie Ten Boom, who was in a German concentration camp in World War II tells the her own story of forgiveness and how it set her free, many years after being released from that camp. “It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former SS man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing centre at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s painblanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message Fräulein”, he said “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your Forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

Now today if you are dealing with some unforgiveness in your life, in regards to another brother or sister in Christ, by what they might have done to you or against you, or a sin they have committed against you, there is a way of handling this issue in a biblical way. Matthew writes about what I like to call Biblical Conflict resolution in Matthew 18:15-17 which says this, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Now there is a lot of tough stuff in this passage, and there is no way we can get to it all, but let’s unpack as much as we can in this short powerful 3 verses.

So this morning if you have been sinned against by another brother or sister, maybe even in this very room, here is what you do. You go to a good friend, and then you talk about that person behind their back, you slander them, and you refuse to go to the person who can actually make it right. That is what Paul is saying right? Of course not, but probably this is what truly happens so much of the time in the life of congregations all over this world. All too often we make use of my favorite shape, a triangle. What I mean by that is there is this concept in relational dynamics called triangulation. Here is what it is. Triangulation is most commonly used to express a situation in which one family member will not communicate directly with another family member, but will communicate with a third family member, which can lead to the third family member becoming part of the triangle. Triangulation can also be used as a label for a form of "splitting" in which one person plays the third family member against one that he or she is upset about. This is playing the two people against each other, but usually the person doing the splitting, will also engage in character assassination, only with both parties. We all too often live this out in the life of our biological families but we also way too often live this out in the family of Christ.

This passage of Scripture is easy to understand but extremely difficult to live out and embody. But if we are followers of Jesus here this morning, than Jesus calls us to follow this way of conflict resolution. So this morning, if you are aware that a brother or sister has sinned against you, go to them and seek to make it right. Prayerfully go in love, speaking the truth in love. Not going to win an argument, be exonerated, or to heap condemnation on that person. No, the purpose of going to them is to restore the relationship to the way that it was, or should be.

If they don’t listen to you, lovingly take 2-3 other people with you. Not as a way of ganging up on that person but as a way of again restoring that relationship in a loving way. Make sure that these 2-3 people are as unbiased as they can be, because if they seem biased, it might not go well.

As the last resort, take it to the entire body. Sometimes we skip all the steps and get right to this point. We slander someone while we call it sharing, or a prayer request. Then if they don’t listen even to the entire body, treat them like a pagan or tax collector.

I love this ending, but all too often I believe in the church we have gotten it wrong. It’s like we think we then push the person out from the church, we “shun” them, and hope that this shunning will bring about repentance. Now I am not saying that there isn’t a way of biblical church discipline, but I think the point that Jesus is making with the end statement can best be summed up by looking at the way he dealt with the “pagans and tax collectors”. He didn’t shun them, hardly. He loved them, had mercy on them and was full of grace for and towards them. His dealings with the outcast and the sinner shows us the way forward when we deal with a brother or sister that has sinned against us, and we are dealing with unforgiveness in our heart and in the situation. The way forward through this process has to have love all over it for it to fully work, to bring redemption and forgiveness in the relationships. Without love it won’t ever work. Jesus shows us that in the end of this passage, that even if the person refuses to acknowledge their sin, their part of the issue, love them, care for them, forgive them (even if they don’t ask for it), and have mercy for them.

So let’s spend some time unpacking what this might look like in reality, and when the rubber hits the road. Let’s spend some time discussing forgiveness, unforgiveness, and life within the body of Christ.

Discussion Questions: 1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, push back, etc.. do you have regarding the message and the Scriptures 2. What do you sense God saying to you? What do you sense God saying to us? 3. What are you going to do about it? What should we do about it?