Peninsula Community Church
The Pathway to Forgiveness – The Benefits
January 22, 2012
Psalm 139:14 – I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
David realized that we are a creation of God. In that creation we were created for a purpose and for a reason. In the creation of mankind it was God’s desire that we align ourselves with His purposes and plans. When we step outside of God’s divine plan we experience hurt and woundedness as illustrated by life itself. When we fail to follow the Ten Commandments for example we find ourselves plagued by guilt and shame. We worry about someone finding out about the real us and therefore we try to hide even more. When we are not aligned with God’s will and His purpose we will lie, kill, covet our brother’s wife and so on. Rather than bringing life this brings death, fear and ongoing issues.
Because we are fearfully and wonderfully made we must learn to walk in forgiveness. Walking in forgiveness is God’s design so that we do not live with fear of reprisal. We live with a short list of wrongs against our brother, family and friends. When we walk in forgiveness and we align ourselves with God’s will in this matter we will experience God’s grace.
It is interesting to note that until the 1960’s and really not until the mid 1990’s that psychologists and sociologists began to exam the benefits of walking in forgiveness. Since that time some amazing facts have been revealed. Of course it is interesting to me that God knew this long before 1960 or 1990 for He challenged believers in the New Testament to live a live characterized by forgiveness. It is for that reason that Jesus would not allow Peter to get away with the minimum requirement for forgiveness.
You remember the story of Peter in Matthew 18 who thought that he was being spiritual by saying that one should forgive seven times. A historical contextual reading of this passage reveals that Peter was saying that if do the minimum amount required have I been successful. Jesus’ reply was no you need to forgive and continue to forgive until your heart is at peace with the other person. This is not as much a verbal forgiveness as it is an inward act of healing and restoration.
Here are the words of the text. Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. In essence Jesus was saying that you will be confronted by reasons to not forgive the other person but you forgive because it is the right thing to do. And every time a reason presents itself to walk in unforgiveness you resist and let God heal you.
Sometimes the only way we know that we have forgiven the other person is when we are confronted by the same person or the same issue. You know that you are walking in forgiveness when you see the person at the end of the grocery aisle and you do not burn shopping cart rubber trying to get down another aisle.
Jesus understood what we are only beginning to find out and that is that when we walk in forgiveness we realize benefits that affect us physically, emotionally/mentally, relationally and spiritually. By walking in forgiveness we realize the benefits of experiencing the grace and mercy of God in our lives. Let’s look at some of the benefits of forgiving others:
The first of these are the physical benefits of forgiveness. Studies have shown that when people walk in hostility and anger toward others that their blood pressure becomes elevated and that those who are chronically hostile toward another individual has a raised potential for coronary disease. A lack of forgiveness can cause other physical issues such as fatigue, ulcers, loss of memory, misplaced anger and other such issues. However, these studies have shown that when one begins to deal with the issues that have created unforgiveness one’s blood pressure and heart rate are lowered and many of the other physical ailments are either drastically reduced or completely eliminated.
The second benefit is seen in the area of emotional and mental benefits. Paul Meier discovered that those who allow anger and bitterness to rule and reign in their life had a higher potential for chronic depression. One of the primary drivers of this is the fact that the brain communicates by way of electrical impulses. The vehicle used to transmit these impulses is a chemical in the brain called serotonin and dopamine. When one is chronically angry or bitter research has shown that these chemicals are depleted. Because we are fearfully and wonderfully made when we live outside of the will of God in this area of our life there are adverse affects. The most common treatment for this issue in the psychological world is to administer drugs that will help supply these chemicals to the brain. However, as we all know these drugs have side effects that create and cause other issues and symptoms. While these drugs can be good to help someone get there life in balance, drugs alone are not adept at bringing healing. What Meier and others have found is that when one can fully forgive the one that they are angry with or the one who has caused the bitterness in their life the brain begins to reproduce the chemicals it needs again. In fact, studies have shown that if a program of forgiveness intervention is administered many of those currently institutionalized could be released.
The third benefit is seen as social and relational benefits. This is somewhat easier to understand as we have all experienced the pain of hurt and the wounds that come from others. When we do not forgive or we do not seek forgiveness we feel the anxiety of being near the other person. We feel the need to avoid the other person to the degree that we will avoid them at all cost. We also begin to let out imaginations run wild and we begin to expand our reasons for not liking them some of which may be real and others which may be imaginary.
But when one is walking in forgiveness they will find that they are united with people emotionally. They do not feel the pain that they once felt before. It is for this reason that Jesus gave strict commands on how to handle issues that cause broken relationships. “You are to go to that person and seek forgiveness.” Over seventeen times the scriptures of the New Testament speak of our forgiving others who we have wronged or that have wronged us.
You see the unity of the body of Christ is an important issue for Christ. How many times do you see church’s broken and split by unforgiveness? How many times have you seen families destroyed because one of the parties if not both fail to walk in forgiveness? How many business partners have stopped working together because of misunderstandings that could have been easily resolved by the act of forgiveness?
Does forgiveness bring a benefit to our relationships? The answer is a resounding yes.
The final and most important benefit are the Spiritual benefits that come from forgiving others. In fact this was such a critical component for Christ that on a number of occasions Jesus stated that for God to forgive you must forgive. This seems so counter to what we have learned about God unconditional love. But rather than an indictment against God’s unconditional love what we see here is that when we realize the greatness of God’s love and forgiveness we can’t help but forgive others.
David realized the need of forgiveness and the benefits of forgiveness in Psalm 51. David cried out to God to cleanse him and wash him of his iniquities (v2). In verse 10 David cries out for God to create in him a new heart and to renew a right spirit in him. What David recognized is that when God forgives us we have a greater understanding of what it means to forgive others and how refreshing it is to be forgiven. In verse 12 David recognizes the pain of a broken relationship with God when he asks God to restore to him the joy of his salvation. When we have broken relationships we have a broken spirit that can only be restored through the power of God’s forgiveness. In forgiving others or by being forgiven by another we discover the mercy and grace of God in a new dimension.
God’s plan from the beginning was for us to forgive and keep a short list of wrongs committed against us and by us.
You know how it feels to be forgiven. You feel clean and refreshed. You feel renewed. God wants us free and not bound by past wrongs or evil. How’s your list today? Do you need to seek forgiveness from someone, from God? Perhaps today your issue is not with the church or anyone else but you are angry with God because you feel He has let you down and has failed you in some way.