Posted by: pastortomvabeach | November 13, 2019

Thought For The Week November 17, 2019

This past Sunday the third member of a class who completed a college course in Expository Preaching took his final exam in the course by writing and preaching an expository message to our church.  Our youth pastor, Donny, demonstrated what he learned in the course of study and had a clear proposition about unity in the church with several well thought out points to back up that idea.

Unity in the church, he shared, has been undermined historically by doctrinal disputes and preferential leanings which has fragmented Christianity to the point that Donny noted there are now over 34,000 “Christian” denominations worldwide.  That should disturb us so that we cry out to the Lord to restore the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.

I would like to look at this idea of unity from a more local level and suggest that it is not doctrine or necessarily preference that most often threatens unity in the local church or in families.  My opinion is that unresolved hurts, unforgiveness, and bitterness are very likely the biggest threat to unity that we face in a very real, day to day sense.

When one Christian hurts another Christian either intentionally or by mistake, it can create a falling-out between people that interferes with every aspect of life both in the church and apart from the church.  Left unresolved these hurts can grow in scale and lead to further damage even bringing others into the situation.  Things like this can lead to family feuds, church splits, and people leaving the faith.

I think this is why Jesus was so pointed and clear about the absolute importance of forgiving those who hurt us regardless of the circumstance.  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-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22.

I want you to notice that the issue is between “brothers”, those who are the closest to us.  So often the most damaging hurts are inflicted by those we are related to, those with whom we should have the most secure and peaceful relationships.  Jesus’ response to Peter did not mean to limit forgiveness to 49 times but to show the unlimited range of our need to forgive.

In another setting Jesus tied answers to prayer to our readiness to forgive.  Right after telling the disciples that they would receive whatever they ask in prayer, if they believe, He said this, And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:24-26).  I would conclude from that statement that it would be futile to think that God will answer our prayers if we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts against anyone.

Someone may respond to this, “But you don’t know how badly I’ve been hurt.”  My answer to that is to consider how badly Jesus was hurt when He called on the Father to forgive those who crucified Him.  God demonstrated the idea of unlimited forgiveness in giving Jesus to die on the cross so He could forgive every rebellion, every rejection, every ungodly action that every human has done.  He took the first step because forgiveness heals wounds.

That’s why forgiveness is so important for Christians and churches.  If one person in a family holds some grudge against someone else, it can cause clouds to form over every family gathering.  In the same way, if one or more in a church are holding on to hurts caused by one or more in the same church, every time the church gathers there is a dark cloud hovering over that assembly.  How can there be any breakthrough in worship and intimacy with God if we are holding bitter feelings towards one another?

On a completely different note, forgiveness is not for the one who caused or is perceived to have caused the hurt.  It is for the one who was hurt.  As long as one holds that pain inside and allows it to continue, they are the one suffering.  In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35) Jesus said the unforgiving servant would be handed over to the torturers until everything was paid.  Isn’t that what happens when we harbor a grudge and hesitate to forgive?  Every time we think about the one who “owes” us, every time we see them, it’s as if someone is torturing us.  Anger, pain, and festering wounds cause us torture.

Forgiveness releases us from that pain and anguish.  It’s not saying that we weren’t hurt, but that we choose not to hold it against the one who did the hurting.  They no longer “owe” us anything.  Once we settle that, our hearts can rest.

And back to the original idea, what do feelings like this do to a local church body if one or some or many members are holding grudges against one or more in that body?  Can there ever be real unity in worship and service if we can’t reconcile and have peace with one another?  I think not.

So, if you are having difficulty with forgiving someone, whether it’s something major or if it is something that just keeps on happening, what do you think the Lord would have you do?  Ephesians 4:32 says, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  I think forgiveness is the best thing and likely one of the most needed things we, as Christians, must do.  It is good for you and it is good for your church.  Why not try it and see what happens?  Just a thought.

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