For those who asked, here is the teaching from that evening.
I began with a skit on what it looks like when we live in an unforgiven state. Although, I don't have a video of me doing that skit, I have found the skit on YouTube.
This skit may have caused some tension or discomfort in some of you. I know it made me feel quite uncomfortable the 1st time I saw it.
The purpose of it was to give you a visual of what unforgiveness looks like. Over time, I have come to realize that it's in these uncomfortable moments that God makes real change occur; and sometimes we need discomfort to get deep within to find who He created us to be.
Unforgiveness binds us up. However, even though we are bound, we can still put up a facade. We can make ourselves 'look' pretty in dark times (this is where I had Krista wrap Christmas garland around me).
We put on a smile, even when we want to cry.
We say, "I'm fine," even when we are angry.
We may 'look' pretty on the outside, but we're still very much tied up underneath.
Principle 6 says, "We must evaluate all our relationships. Offer forgiveness to all who have hurt us and make amends for harm we have done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others."
"Happy are the merciful" (Matt 5:7)
"Happy are the peacemakers" (Matt 5:9)
Step 8 says, "We need to make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends."
"Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31)
Step 9 says, "We need to make amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the alter and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the alter. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift." (Matt 5:23-24)
Tonight I'll be talking about 3 different kinds of forgiveness:
1) The forgiveness that God extends to us.
2) The forgiveness that we extend to those who have hurt us.
3) The forgiveness we must ask others whom we have hurt and to forgive ourselves.
I'd like to share with you a quote by John Baker, that I read as I prepared for tonight. He said, "If God wasn't willing to forgive, heaven would be empty." I thought about how empty my life would be if I didn't forgive those who have hurt me.
Forgiveness is letting go.
If I hold on to pain
If I hold on to anger
If I hold on to resentments
If I hold on to disappointments in myself/in others
I stay tied up on the inside and on the outside. You see when I'm tied up in unforgiveness, my hands are bound. They can't reach out to others. I'm stuck. I'm alone. I'm lonely, and I make more pain for myself.
If we want to be completely free from resentments, anger, fear, shame and guilt we need to give and accept forgiveness in all areas of our lives. If we don't our recovery will be stalled and incomplete.
It would be like swimming in a mud puddle. Even though clear raindrops are falling on you, like little seeds of light and hope. You are still choosing to swim around in the mud, instead of choosing to swim to shore and walking out.
How do we get out of the mud?
By choosing to get out!
I've spoken with the kids at Celebration Station on the challenges of forgiveness. One of our lessons in our curriculum was to make a list of all the people who have hurt us since our birth. My list was longer than theirs. Go figure?
We went through the list and crossed off all the people we already forgave, except the ones where we said, "Yeah, I forgive, but..." You see, when there's a 'but' attached, you haven't truly forgiven them.
Then we took a look at Luke 7:44-47.
"Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of greeting, but she has been kissing my feet since I came in. You did not put oil on my head, but she poured perfume on my feet. I tell you that her many sins are forgiven, so she showed great love. But the person who is forgiven only a little will love only a little."
Simon didn't give his ALL. He held back. He had little love. The woman gave everything she had, her ALL. She showed Jesus great love.
It's about attitude. Our humble and honest attitude. When we hold up walls around our hearts. When we're all tied up, we don't give our ALL. We don't show great love.
Jesus tells us that our scattered bits and pieces are just not sufficient.
Forgive with our whole being
Love with our whole being
Otherwise, we end up with only a little
Sometimes, the problem with "giving it our all", when it comes to forgiveness, is because we are addicted to feeling good, and we may think that everything needs to 'feel good' in order to do it.
"I know I've got to forgive, but it hurts! I don't feel like it."
This type of attitude binds us up.
"We need to do, what we know we should do even when we don't feel like it!"
Loving the people who have hurt us unconditionally is a very big challenge, but God commands us to do it.
"Which is the most important command?" Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is the greatest commandment. The second most important is similar. Love your neighbour as much as you love yourself." (Matt 22:36-40)
But... How can we love and forgive others if we don't love and forgive ourselves?
No matter how unloved or worthless you may feel about yourself, did you know that God loves you? He made us in His image. He doesn't create junk! Your feelings about yourself does not change His love for you. He has already forgiven you, way before you were even born.
It's up to you to accept it or not. You have a choice.
Now, self forgiveness is not a matter of assigning the blame to someone else and letting yourself off the hook. It's not a licence for irresponsibility either. It's just an acknowledgement that you are human like everyone else and that you've reached a stage in your life where you are able to give yourself greater respect.
When you forgive yourself and others, you won't change your past, but you will change your future. God will enable us to do what He has called us to do. Remember that He has forgiven us first and He asks us to follow Him into freedom.
This path is a difficult one and sometimes it won't 'feel' good and there will be times on this road of forgiveness where we will need to stop and ask someone we trust for some help. Sometimes we will need to ask them to untie us (this was where I asked Krista to help me out of the straight jacket).
Forgiving sets us free.
Isaiah 1:18-19 shows us what God wants to do with the darkness in our lives.
"Come, let's talk this over! says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool! If you will only let me help you."
Becoming un-bound not only leaves our hands free to reach out to others, but it also frees us to accept the gift of a helping hand and God's gift of mercy.
There's a song by the sidewalk prophets that recently came out and it made a great impact on me. The chorus goes;
I am the thorn in your crown
I am the sweat from your brow
I am the nail in your wrist
Yes, I am Judas' kiss
Each of us, in our own ways, have taken this beautiful gift of life and at times have turned it into something ugly.
We are the thorn in God's life - When we react with fear, bitterness and resentment.
We are the sweat on God's brow - When we run around in circles, doing the same thing over and over again. Staying tied up, not learning, not trusting. Swimming in the mud.
We are the nail in God's wrist - When we react with anger and violence.
We are Judas' kiss - When betray, when we lie.
We are all these things to God when we don't live our lives for what He created us for. But, you see, the song doesn't end there:
But you love me anyways
It's like nothing in life that I've ever known
Yes, you love me anyway
Oh, Lord, how you love me, how you love me
God knew his creation would disappoint Him, but he had a plan. Because He loves us anyways, He sent us a great gift. The gift of His son, to teach us, to heal us and to save us. This gift comes freely. He just asks us to love Him, to trust Him and He asks us to love like Him; no matter what pain we may have caused others/ourselves or what pain they have caused us.
Mercy means getting something we don't deserve. Mercy is the gift God 1st gave us.
As we head into Christmas this week, as we celebrate the birth of God's son, I pray that you find yourself unbound and reaching out to give others the gift that God 1st gave us.
Give mercy to those who have hurt you.
Give forgiveness and "love them anyways".
YouTube for both videos
Sidewalk Prophets "You love me anyways"
Pastor ddromberger "Forgiveness" skit
Joyce Meyer for the quote
John Baker and the Celebrate Recovery leader's Guide and Celebration Station curriculum