Peninsula Community Church
The Pathway to Forgiveness – The Process
Confessing the Need
February 19, 2012
Galatians 6:2 & James 5:16 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Passionate followers of Christ bear one another’s burden without judging or false
accusation. When I say without judging I mean that we are to be careful about making assumptions about another person’s motive or reasoning for needing forgiveness when we do not have all of the details. People in church today are afraid to reveal their personal struggles because they are afraid that they will be judged or that the people they share with do not know how to maintain a level of confidentiality.
To bear another’s burden is to come along side of another person. It means to live a life characterized by love, joy, peace, patience and so forth in personal relationships? We do so by bearing the heavy weight of another’s burden. The burden described here is a burden or a load that is more than one single person should have to carry by themselves. So we are commanded to come alongside of the one who is suffering to shoulder their burden and to help the other person navigate through the difficulty of their lives.
Confessing our sin and our hurts to another is critical to the process of forgiveness because it gives us an opportunity to admit to someone else that we either need forgiveness or we need to give forgiveness. How much of a burden is it to carry the weight of unforgiveness by ourselves. The reason we do this is that we have been called to be a part of a community of believers that have all things in common. In the community of believers there should be safety and comfort in sharing with others.
The problem however that is that we succumb to two false ideas:
- Conceit and pride keeps us from sharing with others that we are hurting and that we need others to step up to plate. Pride binds us from being obedient to God’s commands.
- Comparing ourselves with others and believing that no one else has gone through or is going through what we are experiencing.
The goal of confessing our need for forgiveness is that we:
- Have someone to hold us accountable. The goal here is that while we are walking through the process we will have someone that will hold our feet to the fire. When we shy away from the truth or the needed response we have someone to keep us on tract. By having someone hold us in accountability we also have someone that can encourage us when we are weak or feel like giving up because forgiveness is a process.
- Have someone who will intercede on our behalf. To intercede we are praying for the Holy Spirit to invade the other person’s life so that they will know His presence and the power of redemption and thus the power of following through with their walk of forgiveness.
When you confess choose carefully. Toward the end of the movie Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, Jones meets the ancient Knight Templar who guards the “Holy Grail”, but there are many choices, gold cups, platinum, silver, terra cotta and wood. The knight says “you must choose, but choose wisely, for as the real grail brings eternal life, the false grail brings death”. The bad guy comes in and chooses a glittering golden cup. “Truly the cup of a king”, he says and drinks from it. Shortly later, with several horrific transformations, he deteriorates and turns to dust. The knight looks at them and simply says “He choose poorly”. Jones selects a wooden cup “The cup of a Gallilean carpenter” he says, and with much fear, having seen the results before, drinks from it. “You choose wisely” says the knight.
So it is with choosing who we confess our shortcomings and sin to. The right person will bring life or they will bring death. Therefore we do
- Not share with just anyone. We choose those that can be trusted and that the people we know will keep our confidence.
- Not everyone. The problem sometimes is that we will share with anyone that will listen.
- Someone you can trust. If the person cannot be trusted don’t share with them. You are asking for trouble. This also means someone that will listen but does not try and fix every situation.
Go and seek forgiveness. There is a point where you have to put everything into action and go and ask forgiveness or begin to forgive yourself.
The fact is that there is huge risk in granting forgiveness. For one the one who is being asked to forgive may not respond. It is a risk because it is possible that the situation will get worse before it gets better. Forgiveness is a risk but it is a worthwhile risk that reaps huge benefits personally and corporately.
Listen to this story of Corrie Ten Boom and her confrontation with forgiving one who had brought her and her family much pain.
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. “It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’ “The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room. “And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were! [Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.] “Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’ “And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? “But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. ” ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me. ” ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’ “And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? “It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. “For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ “I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that. “And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ “And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ “For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”
(Excerpted from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive” by Corrie ten Boom. Reprinted by permission from Guideposts Magazine. Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts Associates, Inc., Carmel, New York 10512>).
When we finally forgive we must put a stake in the ground so that you are reminded everyday that you have forgiven that person. Write it in a book. Send a letter. Post it on a wall and every time you feel that you are struggling to forgive go back to that point in time and realize that you forgave and from that point forward you have begun to walk in forgiveness.
Clara Barton (founder of the American Red Cross) was once asked about an incredibly cruel act that someone had done to her years before. She seemed to have forgotten so her friend asked her “Don’t you remember?” “No” replied Clara Barton. “I distinctly remember forgetting it”.
I realized that this is not an easy process and that it often brings about more pain and hurt before there is a resolution of the issues. Forgive and watch what God does in your life.
Next week we will review how to seek reconciliation and healing in the relationship…. So stay tuned.