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Join us on Monday evenings, at 6:30 PM, and Wednesday mornings, at 12:00 Noon, for friendly, informative and lively Bible study and discussions!
Rev. Robert L. Johnson leads us to a deeper understanding of how to live the word of God daily in our lives. We are currenly studying revealing biblical and Christian perspectives on the popular topic of "Forgiveness." Our members and guests are learning to comprehend and release themselves of burdens of blame and guilt, as they seek to become "free indeed" through the liberating love of Jesus Christ.
For more Information call the church at 215-735-0442. Below is the Bible Study for the Lenten Season.
TINDLEY TEMPLE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Rev. Robert L. Johnson, Senior Pastor
To begin our Bible study on Forgiveness, let’s notice a verse from the book of James.
James 2.13: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
What is set before us is quite a difficult challenge. In a similar fashion, Jesus said, “Be merciful just as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6.46). We need the mercy of God. We do not want God’s justice. We want His mercy. We need His mercy. But we will only receive His mercy if we are willing to be merciful and forgive.
Notice also that in the Bible, Jesus said in reference to forgiveness, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6.14, 15).
We are obligated to forgive others if we want to receive the forgiveness of God. But forgiveness is confusing to many of us. We are confused on the subject of forgiveness for two reasons.
1. First of all, forgiveness is confusing to us because we tend to forgive prematurely. Often when we are hurt by someone, we take the high road by saying that we forgive the offender without the offender asking for forgiveness. In doing so, we extend forgiveness prematurely. In Luke 17.3, Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”
Jesus did not say that if your brother sins against you, forgive him. What Jesus said was that if your brother sins against you, rebuke him. He then says, “if he repents, forgive him.” Forgiveness is conditioned on his repentance. Thus forgiveness can be premature if we offer forgiveness from our heart when there has been no repentance.
If we keep reading, Jesus continues in the next verse, "And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17.4).
The next verse says, “if he returns and says I repent.” The word “repent” in the New Testament is translated from a Greek word that means, “change your mind.” It is when someone is in mid thought and they make an about face. When you change the way you think, it results in a change in the way you live. This passage tells us that we need to forgive when someone changes the way they think in reference to what they did to us. In other words, we need to forgive when they come and apologize, asking for our forgiveness.
Are we not supposed to forgive the way God forgives? Absolutely! But how does God forgive? God never forgives prior to our repentance and turning to Him. If God’s forgiveness is conditioned on our repentance, and we need to forgive the way God forgives, then we also need to forgive on the condition of repentance.
2. The second reason why forgiveness can be confusing is because often it is not granted at all, even when there has been repentance.
Too often we do not forgive enough when it is warranted. It is sometimes very difficult to forgive someone even when they are seeking our forgiveness. It takes strength, and it takes strengthening our hearts.
You are invited to this Bible study on forgiveness as we give some thought to some verses that will help us be more forgiving in our interaction with others.
Bible Study on Forgiveness:
The Definition of Forgiveness
In the verses we are about to consider, the definition of forgiveness is presented in two ways.
It is described by a word "forgiveness" that Jesus used.
is described by a picture that Jesus paints.
Defining the Word "Forgiveness"
In the original Greek language the word "forgiveness" is translated from the Greek word “aphiemi” which is a form of the word “aphesis.” It is found over and over in the book of Acts and is the word means “freedom.”
What is forgiveness? It means to be liberated from the guilt of our mistakes. So when it is warranted, when there is an apology, give them their freedom. As long as you refuse to forgive them when they have asked for it, they remain in the shackles of guilt. But it is the strength of heart, the willingness to forgive, that unlocks those shackles and releases them from the offense allowing them to live guilt-free.
If you are unwilling to forgive, then not only does the offender remain in chains, but you, the unforgiving one, will remain in chains as well: the chains of hurt feelings and holding onto grudges.
A Word Picture of Forgiveness
Not only does the word "forgiveness" itself help us to understand the concept of forgiveness, consider a word picture used by Jesus.
In Matthew 18.15-18, Jesus is teaching about conflict resolution. He explains the process of how to resolve conflicts between individual, and it flows into this parable of the unmerciful servant which teaches us how to forgive. Right within this context we find these words in verses 19, 20.
Matthew 18.19: “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”
Concerning this individual who has sinned against another, whatever decision is made by the apostles is the decision that will be accepted. But contained in this verse is this concept of people working together.
Notice the phrase, “if two of you agree.” The Greek word for agree is “sumphaneo.” It is from this word that we get our English word “symphony.”
“Sum” is the Greek word for “together.”
“Phoneo” is a form of the word “phonos” which means “sound.”
When you put the two Greek words together you have “sumphaneo.” Literally it means “to sound together.”
These are two people who are sounding together. They are in agreement. Jesus is saying that whatever you decide together concerning this brother who has sinned against you, it shall be so.
Then consider the next verse:
Matthew 18.20: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
The phrase “gathered together” translates a single Greek word that means “to go and walk together.” It is a dwelling together in unity. It is people walking together in harmony.
When we forgive we are releasing the offender from the shackles of guilty, and we are in agreement with one another. As we go our way, we are going together.
You may say, “but I don’t think I can do that.” If you cannot forgive someone who is seeking your forgiveness, then don’t get on your knees and ask for it! Because Jesus said that mercy is extended only to those who show mercy. Forgiveness is extended only to those who are forgiving. (Matt. 18.34)
A great passage that will help us in this regard is found in Hebrews 10. It is a chapter that shows how the blood of bulls and goats were ineffective in taking away sin under the Old Testament system. In Hebrews 10.1, 2: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.”
According to this passage, what is forgiveness? It is when one has no more consciousness of their sin. Later in the chapter it says that God will remember their sins no more (Heb. 10.17). There would be no more consciousness of sins. When one who is guilty of sins comes in contact with the blood of Jesus through faith, repentance, confession, and baptism, their sins are wiped out.
Because they are wiped out, you don't have to think about them anymore. You don't have to dwell on them. You don't have to worry about being punished for your sins. You will have no consciousness of sins. It doesn't mean that you won’t be aware of them, or that you won't remember them. But you don't have to think about them because God took them out of the way. And now He doesn't think about them. That's forgiveness!
That is exactly what we are obligated to give to our fellow man. You are to have no more consciousness of their sins against you, so that they don't have to have consciousness of their sins against you. You are obligated to liberate the offender of their guilt over what they had done to you. You are obligated to sound together with them, and walk with them as if the offense never happened. That is forgiveness!
Bible Study on Forgiveness:
Forgiveness is Difficult
When you read this text in Matthew 18, you learn that forgiveness is difficult because of Peter's question, and because of the Jesus' answer.
The Difficulty of Forgiveness is Seen in the Question that Peter Asked.
Matthew 18.21: “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’”
Jesus had been talking about conflict resolution in the previous verses, and Peter asked the Lord how often he should do this. Then Peter proposed a number. “Up to seven times?”
There was a concept among Jews that they were obligated to forgive up to three times and no more than four. This belief was derived from Amos where God would overlook the transgression three times, but after the fourth time God would punish the nation (Amos 2.4). So the Jews would then offer forgiveness up to three or four times.
It is believed that Peter thought that he was being quite generous. He perhaps thought that he was only obligated to forgive three or four times, but he would be generous and suggest up to seven times.
Jesus responded to Peter that He did not say seven times. Jesus just taught this lesson about conflict resolution that involved four steps.
You go to him alone. (Matt. 18.15)
You bring with you two or three brethren. (Matt. 18.16)
You tell it to the church. (Matt. 18.17)
If all of that doesn’t work, you treat him as a tax collector and heathen. (Matt. 18.17)
Peter didn't commend Jesus for making such a great point. He wasn't excited about being able to teach this divine method of conflict resolution to others. What Peter did was make personal application. “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Peter says that he understood that he was under an obligation forgive his brother if he repents, but how often was he obligated to do this. That question tells me that forgiveness is hard.
Peter is asking, should there be a limitation? Should there be a time when you can say that you have forgiven you enough? That forgiveness is difficult is implied in the question.
If you have ever tried to apply this concept to your own life, you know how difficult it is. You may say, “I will forgive, but I won't forget.” If that is the case, then forget it because that kind of forgiveness doesn’t count. True forgiveness has no more consciousness of sins (Heb. 10.1, 2). God said, “There sins and their lawless deeds, I will remember no more.” (Heb. 10,17).
That’s a hard thing to do. And if the apostle Peter, one of the Lord’s brightest, struggled with it, then you can be sure it will be s struggle for you and me.
The Difficulty is Seen in the Lord's Answer
It is the Lord's answer that also tells me that this is a difficult thing to do. His answer is in the form of a parable. The parable can be broken down into three sections.
Section 1: Matthew 18.23-27
Matthew 18.23-27: “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.”
A servant owes his master ten thousand talents. As one commentator suggested, that is more taxes than is owed by Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, combined. To owe his master ten thousand talents was a massive debt.
He pleaded with his master to please have patience. The master was moved with compassion and forgave him his debt.
Section 2: Matthew 18.28-30
Matthew 18.28-30: “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.”
The second section is when this forgiven servant went to another servant and demanded that he pay his debt of 100 denarii.
At the beginning of Matthew 20, you learn that one denarius is about one day’s wage. So a hundred denarii is equal to about four months of wages. That’s no small amount. It wasn't as if this servant could reach into his pocket and pull out four months' worth of wages. But it was small compared to the 10,000 talents this first servant owed.
This man owed what would be equal to about 350 years' worth so wages, and he was forgiven. Then he goes to his fellow servant who owed him four months' worth of wages and he would not forgive him, but threw him into debtor's prison.
Section 3: Matthew 18.31-34
Matthew 18.31-34: “So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.”
The third section we find that some of the fellow servants saw what had happened, and they were grieved. They went and told the master all that had happened.
The forgiven servant who was unforgiving is back in front of his master. His master called him wicked, and was angry. He sent him to the tormentors until he paid his debt. Remember that he owed about 350 years’ worth of wages. It was a life sentence.
What Does This Parable Mean?
That story tells me that forgiveness is hard. Here is a man who owed a tremendous debt, and his master wiped it out. Then he goes to his fellow servant who owed him pennies in comparison, and even though he was forgiven of a massive debt, he would not forgive the debt that he was owed.
As a result, he found himself in front of his master unforgiven because he was not willing to forgive the debt of his fellow servant. Forgiveness is hard. It was hard for this servant, and it is hard for us.
Have you ever had someone talk about you instead of talking to you? Have you ever had someone talk about your wife or husband? Have you ever had someone talk about your children? Have they asked for forgiveness, and if they have, did you forgive them? Does it still bother you? Do you still hold feelings of animosity toward them because of it? If you are, then have you really granted them forgiveness?
The fact that we are still bothered by what someone else did, even after they asked for us to forgive them, tells me that forgiveness is hard to do. You can forgive, but it is hard to forget. There is something about being wronged by another that really sticks with us. We can forget a thousand compliments, but we have a hard time forgetting a single wrong against us. Forgiveness is hard.
Now let’s look at the kind of mindset that is necessary to be forgiving. Forgiveness is so difficult that it takes a strengthened heart to do it.
Bible Study on Forgiveness:
How to Have a Heart that Forgives
There are three components that we need to have a forgiving heart: Patience, Compassion, and Mercy.
Forgiveness requires Patience
Matthew 18.26: “The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’”
In the original language, the word “patience” is translated from the Greek word “makrothumeo.” This Greek word is a compound word, meaning it is two words put together.
Makro is the Greek word for “long.” The opposite of makro is mirco meaning small or short.
Thumos is the Greek word for “anger”.
When we put them together we have “makrothumeo” which is what is translated here as “patience.” It means to take a long time to get angry. One who is patient takes a long time before he loses his temper.
A heart that is capable of forgiveness is a heart that can take it and take it, and is long to come to anger. You will never know the heart and mind of Jesus until you take that chip off your shoulder that is quick to punish those who injure you. You will never know the heart and mind of Jesus until you are willing and capable of being long to come to anger.
Forgiveness Requires Compassion
Matthew 18.27: “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.”
How many times do we read of Jesus being moved with compassion? If you are going to forgive even as God has forgiven you, then you need to have a heart that feels for others.
Forgiveness Requires Mercy
Matthew 18.33: “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?”
To be merciful is to reach out and help those who cannot help themselves. The master said that this servant did not want to feel for others as his master had reached out and helped him who could not help himself.
The idea of mercy is to consider the plight of another individual, and then mentally switch places. It is to put yourself in his shoes, and then act accordingly. If you are merciful to someone, you think about how you would feel if you were in their position. What would you want someone to do for you? If you needed to be rebuked, how would you want it phrased? And then you act accordingly.
Let’s put it together. A heart that is capable and willing to forgive is when you are not one who has a quick tempter. You feel for the plight of others, and then you switch places with them in your own mind. You act as if you are in their place and they are in your place. And when you put those three components together you know what Jesus meant when He said…
Matthew 18.35: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Maybe that is what Paul was thinking, when He wrote these words to the Colossian brethren: Colossians 3.12,13: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
Look up the following verses and talk about the steps to forgive.
A Quick Bible Study on Forgiveness
• We have been forgiven (Colossians 2:13-15).
• Forgive because you've been forgiven (Colossians 3:13).
• Forgiveness restores broken relationships (Genesis 50:17).
• Forgiveness is a path to love (Luke 7:47).
• Forgiveness precedes healing (Luke 5:17-26).
• God tells us to forgive instead of seeking revenge or bearing a grudge (Leviticus 19:18).
How to Forgive
• Realize and admit your part in the conflict.
• Ask Jesus, the ultimate forgiver, to empower you, remembering that he has forgiven you.
• Decide that you don't want to keep on letting that person hurt you by holding the grudge.
1. Why do you think it is difficult to forgive those who hurt you?
2. Read Luke 5:17-26, the healing of the paralytic. What does this passage imply about the relationship between forgiveness and healing?
3. How could extending forgiveness heal a relationship? How might it heal the other person? How might it heal you?
4. Respond to the Lewis Smedes quote from above: "When you refuse to forgive, you are giving the person who walloped you once the privilege of hurting you all over again—in your memory." Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
5. Share an example from your own experience when refusing to forgive hurt you.
“Forgiveness is easy!” That is the statement of someone who has never been hurt. Most people can think of at least one person they struggle to forgive. The pain is too deep, and the hurt too tender. Christians are no exception. The painful reality is that offenses will come—they are part of the fabric of our fallen world (John 16:33). But we can choose to respond to offenses biblically. We can choose to forgive.
Since Last Time
Your assignment last time was to examine your heart and ask God to help you reflect on any areas where you have not been willing to count the cost to forgive others. What did you discover? Spend a few minutes sharing what God has shown you since your last meeting.
1. Does the pain of your hurt or offense seem so great and personal that you find it difficult to share with others? What is holding you back from sharing? Perhaps you have opened up to share your hurts, and people did not react as you expected. Do you feel like no one understands or can relate to your pain?
2. How does our unwillingness to forgive make us victims? How does a “victim mentality” affect our ability to respond to circumstances? How has hurt changed you from who you were before those hurtful events occurred? List ways that your offender is still affecting your life.
3. How does the hate of unforgiveness compare to drinking poison and hoping someone else will die? What is the source of that “poison”?
4. Why does “debt collecting” lead to resentment and bitterness? What are some end results of living as a debt collector? Do you see yourself as a debt collector? Carefully read through Matthew 18:21-35, and prayerfully ask the Lord to speak to you through this passage about any debts that you may be holding over the offender’s head.
5. Are there any people who have so deeply wounded or offended you that you feel it may be impossible to forgive them? If so, describe what goes on in your heart emotionally (or in your body physically) when you hear their names, know that you may run into them, or have to be in the same room with them.
6. How should a Christian deal with recurring offenses, especially those that open up old wounds?
7. How might unforgiveness affect our prayers? (See Mark 11:25.)
On Your Own
Picture the person who has caused you the most hurt or the person who has greatly offended you. Imagine forgiving that person, and write down what that would look like. If you struggle with this exercise, imagine that your circumstance happened to a friend. What would forgiveness look like if your friend forgave his or her offender?
Write out John 8:32, and then write a brief prayer to God. Tell Him your desire for freedom from the bondage of unforgiveness. Or if you feel at this point that you do not want to forgive your offender, admit your feeling to the Lord. He wants to work a miracle of grace in your life.
What Happens When We Refuse
As you worked through the “On Your Own” section in the last lesson, what were your thoughts? Was it difficult to imagine forgiving your offender? Did it feel impossible? Were you surprised that God helped you to imagine the blessing of forgiveness? Or did you feel rebellion arise in your heart—that you did not want even to imagine forgiving that person? Forgiveness involves some powerful emotions, but it’s really about a choice!
1. What is the evidence that bitterness has put down roots in your life? What are some reactions that might be expressions of that bitterness? (See Ephesians 4:31.)
2. Is it possible that the pain caused by your offender(s) might have created a warped or twisted perspective in your life about certain issues? For example, do you fear a similar hurt happening again, and then that fear affects your relationships? Is your view of the offender an accurate one? Have you become overly sensitive because of your pain? List some of the ways your perspective may have been affected.
3. In the parable in Matthew 18, we discover that when we refuse to forgive, we set ourselves up to be turned over to tormentors (verse 34). Have you ever felt tormented by the results of unforgiveness? Describe what that torment looks like in your life.
4. Responding in bitterness can affect our bodies physically. Sometimes bitterness only shows on our faces. Sometimes it plays a part in development of chronic illnesses. Can you think of any physical symptoms in your own life that may be a result of holding on to hurts?
5. Why does unforgiveness tend to open the door for Satan to affect our lives? Describe any evidence of ways that Satan may have gained a foothold (or advantage) in your life because of issues of unforgiveness.
6. Define these terms in your own words (or review the definitions found in this chapter): bitterness, wrath, slander, and malice. Can you see any evidence of these responses in your life?
7. Bitterness in the marriage relationship can be especially painful and damaging. Paul instructs husbands not to be bitter or harsh with their wives (Colossians 3:19), but how might wives also express bitterness toward their husbands?
For Next Time
Sometimes our lack of forgiveness spills over to affect others who may not even be involved in the original offense. Hebrews 12:15 says many may be defiled by our unplucked roots of bitterness. This week, rewrite this verse in your own words. Reflect on how your responses to hurtful situations and offenses may have affected your spouse, children, other family members, friends, or church family.
The choice to forgive sometimes plunges us into the school of discipline. God uses the hurts and offenses of others as a tool to shape our character and show us our need to walk more closely with Him. The discipline of forgiveness makes us more like Christ, and it is for our good (Hebrews 12:10). As you continue to work through this study, watch for ways that God might want to transform your life through the power of forgiveness. Be alert to the process of God’s discipline in your life.
The Promise of Forgiveness
One of the greatest benefits of forgiveness is changed relationships. In last week’s section “For Next Time,” you were asked to reflect on how any sinful, unforgiving responses to hurtful situations and offenses may have affected others in your life. This week, as we learned how to delete the record of others’ offenses, we have the opportunity to take a huge step toward strong, loving relationships that honor the Lord. God promised to remove our transgressions from us, and we can follow His example, extending to others the forgiveness we have in Christ.
1. What are some of the promises God gives us about His forgiveness? List some words that describe God’s forgiveness toward us.
2. Whenever we withhold forgiveness, we are saying that we deserve to hold on to the sin debt of our offender. God offered His forgiveness to your offender in the same act of offering forgiveness to you. If you do not also offer forgiveness—as God has—are you saying that you deserve something more from your offender than what God’s act of grace has covered?
3. Do you have to feel like forgiving (an emotional response) in order to forgive, or is it a choice of the will? What are you gaining by choosing to hold on to unforgiveness? What are you losing by that choice?
4. Rewrite Colossians 3:12-13 by inserting your name in the first blank provided, and your offender’s name in the remaining three blanks: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved ________________, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with __________________, and forgiving ______________, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you forgive _______________.”
5. From the illustration about Lorna in this chapter, list the blessings that she would never have experienced if she had not chosen forgiveness.
6. What does Joseph’s question to his offenders in Genesis 50:19 mean? Whose place are you attempting to fill when you are unwilling to forgive?
Think about all the ways that God, in His abundant grace and mercy, has deleted your own sin. Thank Him for that!
Perhaps you have fears about forgiving someone. Maybe you fear that, by forgiving, you are in some way negating the seriousness of the offense. Or maybe you fear that justice will never be brought to your offender. Romans 12:17-21 is the framework for overcoming evil, and verse 19 reminds us that vengeance belongs to God alone. Your fears may be understandable from a human perspective, but forgiving isn’t a matter of conquering our fears; it’s a matter of faith. It’s a matter of trusting God to do what is right. We place our fears—in fact, all of our emotions about our hurt and pain—into God’s capable hands. Then we are free to move past the offense and see the offender through God’s eyes.
Forgiving for Jesus' Sake
In the “Grace Note” from the last lesson, we were reminded that when we cannot forgive, we can hand our pain over to our heavenly Father. We can be assured that He—the God who knows all things and works all things according to His will—will deal with our offender. But there’s another motivation for us to learn to forgive. Forgiveness is at the foundation of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. As we gain a greater understanding of how God has forgiven us, we will better know how to forgive others. There is no better picture to the world of the great grace of God.
Shame prevents us from enjoying intimacy with God, but God’s forgiveness covers our shame with the blood of Jesus. Is there anything in your life that you have hidden or are so ashamed of that you’ve been unwilling to acknowledge it and receive God’s forgiveness? Why do you feel that God can’t forgive you?
Read Ephesians 1:7 and 2:14. According to these verses, how did God forgive you, and what was the cost? Did you deserve His forgiveness? With that in mind, is it right for you to withhold forgiveness from anyone? Are you placing your offender’s debt against you at a higher level of value than the debt that Christ paid for all of your offenses against Him?
Do you believe that God knew this offense would come into your life? Do you believe that He could have prevented it? Are you angry with Him, then, because He didn’t?
Can you imagine that God could have a perspective on your circumstances that you can’t possibly have at this moment? Could He bring good even out of your deepest hurt? Do you believe that God loves you that much?
Can you imagine that God might even have a higher purpose for your offender? As you think about the story of Philemon, can you think of modern-day examples of people who were forgiven and restored through grace, and then went on to minister with great fruitfulness for Christ?
What is the difference between trying to “forgive yourself” versus receiving God’s forgiveness? Why is forgiveness vertical and horizontal, but not internal?
How does a Christian deal with the regret, guilt, and shame of personal sin that causes others pain?
Explain the meaning of the phrase “Forgiveness in … Forgiveness out” with a personal example from your life.
On Your Own
Romans 8:28-29 are familiar verses, especially part of verse 28—“all things work together for good”—but read Romans 8:28 slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully this week. Reflect on each word and thought. Then, in place of the words “all things” insert the offense that you are still holding on to, or your most difficult area of struggle with ongoing hurts.
Read Romans 8:29 in the same way, and answer the following questions sincerely: Are the pain and offense that you have suffered worth enduring in order to be transformed into the image of Christ? Which would you rather have—an untouched life that bears no resemblance to the Savior, or painful circumstances that will change you and prepare you for eternity?
Our choices create our character, but they also can make a difference in others’ lives. Your willingness to forgive may even make a difference in how you share the message of the Gospel with others. Everyone in your sphere of influence needs a demonstration of the grace of God and the power of Christ’s resurrection. The world is watching! Your choice to forgive is a powerful witness to your family, your friends, and your neighbors.
What True Forgiveness Is—And Isn't
Four common myths masquerade as biblical truth concerning forgiveness. Have you been fooled by any of these myths? Remember: what we think and believe affects our actions, so be sure that your thoughts about forgiveness align with the truth of Scripture.
Ask God to help you consider your thoughts and beliefs about forgiveness. Ask Him to help you release any myths you have believed, and to embrace instead the clear teachings of Scripture.
Is it possible to totally forgive someone and still have thoughts and emotions that contradict the decision to forgive? If negative feelings continue, does that mean that the forgiveness was insincere? What should you do when struggling with emotions that contradict your choice to forgive?
Explain the difference between God’s forgiving our sins and forgetting them. How is it possible for you to forgive if you keep remembering the offense?
How does God desire for us to use the memory of our pain and hurt? (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Share specifically how God may want to use your affliction in the lives of others.
Is forgiveness a process? Do we have to wait for complete healing? Why or why not?
What were three habits that Paul exercised throughout his life in order to continue offering forgiveness while living a life of continual persecution?
What are some examples of forbearance or “letting it go” in your home? At church? At work? In your neighborhood?
On a scale of one to ten, with ten being totally patient and kind, how would you rate your forbearance quotient?
Would those who know you best consider you a person of forbearance? How would they rate you on the forbearance scale? Would your children, friends, grandchildren, or others see in you an example of one who forgives as Christ forgave? If you have children, do you want them to grow up to respond to offenses as you do?
For Next Time
If you think you can’t forgive, remember that it is a habit you can learn, as God gives you His wisdom and grace. You can practice forbearance. Think of two specific, practical ways that you can show forbearance in your home this week. How can you show forbearance in situations you face at work or church? What part does the humility or pride of your heart play in your ability to show patience and kindness to others?
Remembering those times we’ve been forgiven will make us more thankful, and it will also make us more compassionate. Meditate on the quotation from John Piper at the beginning of this chapter. An understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice for you—enabling you to forgive—will help you to respond to hurtful people and circumstances in His grace.