Peninsula Community Church
June 11, 2017
Radical Grace, Radical Forgiveness
Colossians 3:12-13 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, Holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.
This week I read a story about a farmer who was plowing his fields. He was sweating and yanking on his mule to get him to turn and go the way he wanted him to go. This was all done without saying a word to the mule. His hands were bloodied from yanking the reigns so hard. He had exhausted himself and he was behind where he needed to be in planting his fields.
A fellow farmer stopped by and saw how strange it was that he never said a word to the mule. After all this was the customary way of controlling one’s horse or mule. He talked with the farmer and asked him if he thought it would be easier to give verbal commands like “gee” and “haw” to get the mule to turn. The old farmer said “yeah it would but that mule stepped on my foot a year ago and we have not talked since.” Now this is a crazy story and it is somewhat absurd I suppose, but it relates well to the topic of forgiveness.
Why is that? You see the farmer chose to hold onto the pain of the past. He refused to allow himself to walk in forgiveness. The farmer was hurting himself more than he was hurting the mule by his refusal to forgive. He also made his job much harder than it needed to be. He refused to forgive and he suffered the consequences of his actions or his inaction for that matter.
In our passage today, Paul reminds us that relationships matter and that forgiveness is the cornerstone of those relationships. Because relationships matter, forgiveness is a necessary action that must be taken by each of us. Without forgiveness, our relationships can be damaged but when we walk in forgiveness our relationships are healed and restored.
Paul made the statements in this passage because he knew that forgiveness has the power to liberate us from the suffering of the past and that it inspires us to be present in the here and now. There is a problem that occurs when we do not forgive others. When we fail to forgive others we tend to live in the past. We are locked in the past because of the words that have been spoken. We live in the past because of what someone has done to wound or injure us. However, when we live in the past it is hard to be effective in the present. When we live in the past it is hard to have a future vision of what could be in our life.
In addition to living in the past, when we live without forgiving others we allow ourselves to be under the control of the one who has hurt us or who has wounded us. The result is that our growth is stunted and we treat others differently. We become afraid of what people may say or do because of our hurt. We are afraid to deal with the realities of our life when we refuse to forgive others. It has been said that when we do not forgive others, it is like drinking poison and then hoping the other person will die.
To refuse to forgive is to allow others to have power over us. They become tied to us in our spirits and we begin to carry them wherever we go. They begin to effect everything we do. And the funny thing is that the other person is usually oblivious there is a problem. But when we walk in forgiveness we can take back the ground we have given to others. We can begin to walk in the freedom given to us through Christ.
A second thought about radical forgiveness is that it is undeserved by the one receiving it. It also means that radical forgiveness extends radical grace. It is noteworthy that a key part of the word “forgive” is the word give. Therefore we “give” forgiveness as a gift. It is a gift given especially when the person we are forgiving does not deserve it. That is radical forgiveness and radical grace. We give to others what they do not deserve. You might say that radical forgiveness is a bit selfish in the sense that by radically forgiving the other person and extending radical grace we are healed in the process.
Paul reminds us that we are to forgive just as Jesus has forgiven us. We do not deserve His forgiveness. We do not deserve His grace but He gave it any way. He gave it because the gift was from the one who was forgiving and not the one who was receiving the gift. Verbalizing the words “I forgive” can be easy but giving forgiveness is another struggle altogether. True forgiveness requires releasing the other person from the effects of their actions and their words upon our life.
A third thought here is that radical forgiveness is an act of obedience. The fact is radical forgiveness is not easy. Radical forgiveness must be a decision that is made on an ongoing basis. The truth is that our natural inclinations do not push us to forgive others. True forgiveness is outside our natural ability to forgive. Forgiveness seems impossible because we believe our feelings and hurts are justified. We feel justified for not forgiving a friend, a loved one, or a coworker because of what they have done to us. The problem however is is that too often we ask of others what we are not willing to do ourselves. That is where radical forgiveness comes into play in our life and that is where an act of obedience is required.
When we choose to act on forgiveness we are released from the power of guilt, judgement, and criticism. Have you ever found it is much easier to criticize, judge, and place guilt on others than it is to extend grace and forgiveness? It is not easy to offer grace and forgiveness as our natural inclination is to hold others at a place we ourselves are not willing to go. It is for that reason that we must act in obedience to God’s purpose and will as to forgiveness. We must forgive others because it is the right thing to do.
And finally, Jesus illustrated radical forgiveness on the cross. He hung on the cross and yet He was innocent of His crimes. He had been brutally beaten and abused emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Can you imagine the restraint, the calm, and the power He exerted on the cross? In the midst of one of the most horrific days of His life He uttered some of the most powerful words that still reverberate down through history. “Forgive them because they do not know what they do.” When reading these words we might shout “Wait a minute Jesus!” Don’t you realize what these people have done to you? Don’t you see the pain and the anxiety imposed upon you? How can you utter such words? Why don’t you just call 10000 angels and get this over with? After all you are the Son of God!”
The reality is that Jesus could have done any of these things. He had the power. He had the means. After all He was literally the most powerful man in the world. But there was a greater purpose in mind for Jesus’ death. His death was not just any death, it was a death that would change the world and empower us to be receivers and givers of this divine forgiveness.
It is noteworthy here that while He could have taken things into His own hands, He chose to exhibit the restraint necessary to control His actions and His responses. He acted not out of the reality of the moment but a heart that was filled with forgiveness and righteousness. Some would say that is weakness but the reality is that is strength under control. What radical grace! What radical forgiveness! He looked His accusers right in the eye and asked the Heavenly Father to forgive them. He extended grace and forgiveness to those who deserved it least. That is the power of radical, amazing forgiveness.
Today it may seem an impossible task for you to forgive that one who has hurt you. It may seem you cannot do that but I am convinced that if you will call upon the name of Christ and ask Him to help you then you will receive the power and grace you need to act upon your need.
Let us pray!
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom